AN astronomer says a spate of UFO sightings this week were probably people mistaking Venus for aliens.

Astronomy expert Bryn Jones, of Queen Mary University of London, said he had been expecting people to come forward with their strange experiences.

Dr Jones said: "I always expect these reports of UFO sightings when the planet Venus is bright in the evening sky, as it is now.

"People often confuse Venus with something un-usual."

Dr Jones was responding to reports from seven people who believe they saw mysterious red lights in the skies above Basildon and South-end.

Some have even claimed they saw a triangular shap-ed craft hovering around.

Dr Jones, however, bel-ieves there may be a far more simple explanation.

He said one theory was meteorites, which can glow red and change in brightness as they streak across the sky.

In defence of the UFO spotters though, he said he was unaware of any recent meteorite showers. He also said Venus was bright white, which did not ex-plain the fast-moving "flashing red lights" reported.

A sceptic when it comes to UFOs, Dr Jones suggested people had witnessed some sort of plane or military craft.

"If extraterrestrials did come here, I don't think they would hover around in little crafts and then head back. It just wouldn't happen like that."