Author and amateur astronomer John Putnam (Richard Carlson) and schoolteacher Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush) watch a large meteorite crash near the small town of Sand Rock, Arizona. They awaken a neighbor, who has a helicopter, and all three fly to the crash site. Putnam climbs down into the crater and notices a partially buried round object in the crater's pit. He comes to the realization, after he sees a six-sided hatchway close, that this isn't a meteorite but a large alien spaceship. The hatchway's noise starts a landslide that completely buries the craft. Putnam's story is later scoffed at by Sand Rock's sheriff (Charles Drake) and the local news media.
Even Ellen Fields is unsure about what to believe but still agrees to assist Putnam in his investigation. Over the next several days, local people disappear; a few return, but they act distant or appear somewhat dazed and not their usual selves. Convinced by these and other odd events, Sheriff Warren comes to believe Putnam's story that the meteorite is actually a crashed spaceship with alien inhabitants; he then organizes a posse to hunt down the invaders at their crash site. Putnam, however, hopes to reach a peaceful solution to the looming crisis. Alone, he enters a nearby abandoned mine, which he hopes will eventually connect to the now buried spaceship and its alien occupants.
Putnam finally discovers the spaceship and learns from the alien leader that they crashed on Earth by accident; the aliens appear benign and only plan to stay on Earth just long enough to repair their damaged craft and then continue on their voyage. The aliens' real appearance, when finally revealed to Putnam, is entirely non-human: they are large, single-eyed, almost jellyfish-like beings that seem to glide across the ground, leaving a glistening trail that soon vanishes. They are also able to shape shift into human form in order to appear human and move around Sand Rock, unobserved, in order to collect their much needed repair materials. To do this, they copy the human forms of the local townspeople that they have abducted. In doing so, however, they fail to reproduce the townspeople's exact personalities, leading to suspicion and eventually to the deaths of two of the aliens.
The aliens have decided to destroy themselves and their spaceship, now that they have been discovered. Putnam reasons with them at length and convinces the alien leader to instead finish the repairs while he, as a sign of the aliens' good faith, takes the captives outside to the sheriff and his posse. To protect the aliens from the sheriff and his advancing posse, Putnam manages to seal off the mine in order to give them the time they still need to finish their spaceship's repairs.
Shortly afterwards the alien spaceship leaves Earth. Putnam's fiancée Ellen asks him if they are gone for good. He responds "No, just for now. It wasn't the right time for us to meet. But there will be other nights, other stars for us to watch. They'll be back".
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