FIRST there was the sighting of the mysterious multi-coloured chandelier-shaped object hovering in the south's skies.

Then there was the fast-moving bright light spotted over Beaulieu in the New Forest.

And then, a few years later, there were the orange globes sailing above the rooftops of Hythe.

These are all among the bizarre, odd and unexplained sightings of a group of UFO spotters monitoring the skies above Hampshire.

But now, after almost 20 years of no definitive evidence and a few unanswered questions, they have decided to fold up their telescopes.

With the help of sci-fi shows such as The X-Files, in the early 1990s the popularity of hunting for extra-terrestrials was sky-high and Southampton UFO Group (SUFOG) boasted more than 75 members.

But since then there has been a wane in intergalactic interest and founding member Steve Gerrard has decided to shut the group down after only four members turned up to its last meeting.

The group started in November 1990, when Steve put an advert in the back of the Daily Echo looking for extraterrestrial enthusiasts.

Over the years their photos of strange objects in the sky have been splashed across the world's media, and the Ministry of Defence has even investigated their video footage.

One of the original members, Ernie Sears, said the group has taken hundreds of photographs during their sky-watches, but said there was one incident that "changed his life forever".

Ernie, 83, of Netley, said: "I had my first sighting in March 1960 at Portsdown Hill. I saw a very strange-looking light in the sky. I thought it must be an aircraft with the sun reflecting off it. But it seemed to be hanging there and I thought: It can't be one of those pesky UFOs.' "Half an hour later I heard the roar of jet engines. I rushed to an opening and saw two Meteor jets flying low over Gosport, coming from the direction of Thorny Island Aerodrome.

"To my amazement this object was still hanging in the sky in the same place and not moving. I knew then that it wasn't an aircraft.

"I watched as the jets neared it but as they did it turned on end and disappeared into the blue sky like a light being switched off.

"I ran into a phone box and phoned Thorny Island Air Control. I asked him if he could tell me what the object was the Meteor Jets were chasing. I'll never forget his answer. He said: You did not see any object and you did not see any Meteor jets.' "Since then I have been convinced there is other life out there and I am determined to prove it's true."