The fireball in the night sky was a meteor, experts say

The fireball in the night sky was a meteor, experts say

A fireball seen shooting across the skies from Scotland and Northern Ireland was a meteor, experts said.

Hundreds of people reported seeing the “shooting star” across the skies in the United Kingdom at around 22:00 on Wednesday.

Scientists used footage taken by the public to determine whether the object was a meteor or space debris, and where it came from.

It would have landed in the sea south of Henggal if it had reached Earth.

A space rock that enters the Earth’s atmosphere is called a meteor, but fragments that survive the journey to reach the ground are called meteorites.

Man-made objects left in Earth’s orbit – such as satellite parts – are described as space junk. Thousands of pieces of space junk larger than 10cm (4in) orbit the Earth and can burn up as meteors as they enter the atmosphere.

The UK Meteor Network has now announced that the object, which was seen blazing through the atmosphere for around 20 seconds, was “definitely a meteor”.

Almost 800 witness reports from the UK and Ireland were recorded overnight.

The UK Meteor Network said the object came to rest between 50km and 100km (31-62 miles) west of Islay.

“It orbited an asteroid and entered the atmosphere at 14.2 km/s,” the network tweeted. “The observed section of the trail covered more than 300km.

“If any meteorites fell, they ended up in the ocean.”

The group of experts said they were now “100% confident that this is a small part of an asteroid”.

Kevin Morgan, from the United Kingdom’s Meteor Network, had earlier told BBC Morning Radio Scotland the speed at which he was traveling indicated that he was space junk.

After questioning whether it could be part of Elon Musk’s SpaceX program, the citizen scientist network, tweeted: “We’ve checked the Starlink de-orbit and it wouldn’t have come anywhere near the UK.

“At this point we cannot find any space junk or satellite de-orbit that could account for this fireball. We are looking at the data again.”

The International Meteor Organization said most witness reports came from central Scotland but there were also sightings from Black Isle and Kinnaber in the east, near Montrose and as far south as London.

Initial calculations indicated that the object was traveling north and could land in the Atlantic Ocean “south of Henggal”.

‘Something special’

Steve Owens, an astronomer and science communicator at Glasgow Science Centre, said the sighting was “unbelievable”.

“I was sitting in my living room at exactly 22:00 and I saw out of the widow just to the south this great ball of fire – this meteor – streaking across the sky,” he said.

“I could tell there was something special. I could see through a broken cloud that it was splitting – breaking apart and little pieces coming out.

“Usually if you see a meteor or shooting star, they are just tiny streaks of light that last a fraction of a second but this one streaked across the sky for at least 10 seconds, probably longer.

“It traveled straight south all the way to the west. It was an incredible sight.”

He said it was unlikely, but not impossible, that he would have reached land, and that he might have reached the Atlantic Ocean.

Mr Owens said: “Usually these little shooting stars light up and everything disappears and evaporates into the atmosphere, but last night it was more than a bit of dust, which is what normal shooting stars cause.

“The one last night was maybe the size of a golf ball or maybe a cricket ball, maybe even bigger.

James Williams saw it from his front garden in south Glasgow and managed to record it on his mobile phone and doorbell camera. He described it as “different colors like fireworks but quiet”.

Danny Nell, 21, was walking his dog in Johnstone, just west of Paisley and Glasgow, when he saw the fireball.

“I was walking my dog ​​and it was quite strange 10pm on the spot and I saw the flash in the sky and I pulled out my phone and recorded it,” he told the PA news agency.

“I thought it might be fireworks at first because there was a lot of Scottish football going on but I quickly realized it wasn’t and just grabbed my phone to see if I could catch it.”

Dr Áine O'Brien

Dr Aine O’Brien described the sight as “a wonderful, beautiful thing”.

The UK Fireball Association announced on Thursday evening that the fireball was a “natural phenomenon”.

Dr Aine O’Brien, from the University of Glasgow and a member of the alliance, encouraged people to report their sightings on their website.

She said: “I hope it was a meteorite and given how far it went, we may have the first Scottish meteorite for over 100 years.”

Scientists will use videos of the fireball to triangulate where it came from and to trace where it would have landed had it not burned up in the atmosphere, Dr O’Brien said.

She said it wasn’t something to worry about.

“It’s just an amazing, beautiful thing. We’re getting shooting stars, meteors all the time.”

Dr O’Brien said he was “lucky” that the weather conditions and timing of the fireball meant that many people could see and record it.

Dr Marc Sarzi, head of research at Armagh Planetarium, said the fireball was “very impressive” but he did not think it was a “major event”.

He said that during the summer meteor showers made of small particles left behind by comets usually occur.

If this fireball was caused by a meteor, “it would probably leave a nice chunk of asteroid behind,” he said.

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