We often hear of people mistaking the mundane for the unusual. It's a little rarer to hear it happen the other way around. And even rarer to hear about it happening in modern times. And yet, a full-on search and rescue operation had to be called off when an SOS signal turned out to be a meteor.

Image credit: Lake Windermere Cumbria ~ Boats #dailyshoot by Les Haines/flickr/CC BY 2.02

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Last Sunday, people living off the Cumbrian coast in England reported seeing a "moving red object" in the sky. Some reports seeing a ship's flare to the coastguard, prompting a sea rescue operation. When they didn't find any sign of the ship, there were concerns they were too late.

They weren't. The moving red object was later found to be the same meteor that had been seen and photographed over Loch Ness, Scotland. Explained a spokesperson for the coastguard:

We received many reports from other parts of the country reporting lights in the sky.

But after investigating, it was decided that the sighting was the meteor.

Well, better safe than sorry. Better a meteor be mistaken for a flare, than a flare be ignored as a meteor.

[The Telegraph via QI]