A smattering of early risers across a wide area of the Eastern Upper Peninsula were startled by the brilliant light from a falling meteor or some "space junk" in the northern sky about 6:05 a.m. today.

The bright light traced a lightning-fast path over the northern horizon from west to east, briefly and silently illuminating the dark winter sky for a few seconds in the pre-dawn cold.

One witness, Dixie MacArthur, said the object's path appeared to skim the treeline from west to east, making no sound as it flashed through the sky. Other similar reports were made by the few other observers up and out of doors when the brightly-burning object crossed the sky.

A spokesman for the National Weather Service in Gaylord was not aware of the early morning sighting today. He said the object would not register on U.S. weather radar, since meteors usually burn up in earth's atmosphere at an altitude of 40 to 70 miles, far above the reach of weather radar.

He said it is difficult to tell from the ground if the object was a meteor or "space junk" gradually working its way back to earth from some orbit.

Another spokesman for the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University confirmed that view, adding that the seemingly low trajectory of the object actually means it passed a significant distance away from observers. "If you see it very low, it has to be very far away," he said today.

The MSU official added that the silent passage of the object across the sky likely confirms the distance suspicion. He said a passage or landing within 50 miles would have brought a sharp sonic boom from the burning object, moving at speeds several times the speed of sound.

"If they're really close, you hear a kind of whistling sound," he added.

MacArthur said no sound accompanied her early morning sighting suggesting whatever it was falling through the morning sky was up to several hundred miles distant.

The MSU official said incoming "space junk" is tracked by the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) in Colorado Springs, Colo. NORAD's public affairs office was not available for comment on today's early morning anomaly by midmorning today.