Marie Ford-Quigley says she isn't the kind of person who believes in UFOs and aliens, and she doesn't usually take a great interest in the skies.

But she is still looking for an explanation about the metallic, spherical object she watched for more than a half an hour from the veranda of her home in Tyron, Prince Edward Island. It slowly travelled through a clear blue sky on Boxing Day, 2007, just before dusk.

"We thought it was a balloon, but it was up too high for that," Ford-Quigley recalled Wednesday. "It wasn't an airplane, by any means."

At one point, Ford-Quigley and her husband Tony noticed the strange object dip into a cloud.

"It started to smoke once it got through the cloud, almost like a piece of the back end came apart from the front end. It looked like it broke into two. And after that, a tremendous smoke trail coming from behind it," said Ford-Quigley, 46.

The pair, who took video of what they saw, called the police and the airport, but nobody seemed to know anything about it.

"We don't know what it was," she said. "We really thought it was man-made."

The case has stumped Ufologists too.

Of the 836 cases that were reported last year, Ford-Quigley's case is one of a handful that are considered "high-quality unknowns," said Chris Rutkowski, director of the Winnipeg-based Ufology Research institute, who calls the case " very, very strange."

It's one of the cases Rutkowski examines in his annual study on reported UFO sightings in Canada, something he's put together since 1989.

Released Wednesday, the study says last year there was 12 per cent increase in reported UFO sightings over 2006.

"We had been seeing a fairly high level for a number of years, but to see such a high increase in 2007 was quite surprising,"
said Rutkowski.

As far as his study is concerned, last year didn't set the record for reported sightings of unusual objects in the sky. At its peak in 2004, the study recorded 882 sightings.

Last year, the UFO sighting hot spot shifted from British Columbia to eastern Canada. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec each had a record high number of reports.

The vast majority of unusual sightings that are reported later turn out to be stars, planes, satellites or fireballs.

Then there's cases like Ford-Quigley's, which are well-documented and have good witnesses, but don't have a reasonable explanation.

"Those are the ones that really make us scratch our heads," said Rutkowski.

So far, attempts to define the object spotted Boxing Day in P.E.I. were unsuccessful, Rutkowski said.

"We tried to attribute it to a satellite, or perhaps a plane in difficulty, something like that ... We keep running into possibilities that don't add up," he said.

"We don't, at this time, say that it's a flying saucer from another planet. But we say something was seen that we can't explain."