Fireball in the night sky was a meteor, experts say

Fireball in the night sky was a meteor, experts say

A fireball seen through the sky from Scotland and Northern Ireland was a meteor, experts say.

Hundreds of people reported seeing the “shooting star” over the UK sky around 10pm on Wednesday.

Scientists used video footage captured by the public to find out if the object was a meteor or space junk and where it came from.

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

Space rocks that enter the Earth’s atmosphere are called a meteor, but fragments that survive the journey to the ground are called meteorites.

Man-made objects left in orbit — such as parts of a satellite — are described as space junk. There are tens of thousands of pieces of space junk larger than 10 cm in orbit around the Earth, and they can burn up like meteors as they enter the atmosphere.

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

Nearly 800 witness statements from the UK and Ireland were recorded overnight.

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

“It entered an asteroid orbit and entered the atmosphere at 14.2 km/s,” the network tweeted. “The observed portion of the trajectory was more than 300 km.

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

The expert group said it was “now 100% certain that this was a small part of an asteroid”.

Kevin Morgan, of Britain’s Meteor Network, had previously told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland that the speed at which it traveled could indicate it was space junk.

When asked if it could have been part of Elon Musk’s SpaceX program, the network of citizen scientists, tweeted: “We checked the Starlink de-orbit and it wouldn’t have come anywhere near the UK.

“Right now we can’t find any known space junk or satellite de-orbit that could explain this fireball. We’re looking at the data again.”

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

Initial calculations showed that the object traveled NNE and could have landed in the Atlantic Ocean “south of the Hebrides”.

‘Something special’

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

“I was sitting in my living room at exactly 10 p.m. and I saw this beautiful fireball – this meteor – shooting through the sky from the widow due south,” he said.

“I could see it was something special. I could see through the broken cloud that it was fragmenting – falling apart with little pieces coming off it.

“Normally, when you see a meteor or a shooting star, it’s just tiny streaks of light that last a fraction of a second, but this one flashed across the sky for at least 10 seconds, probably longer.

“It traveled from due south all the way to the west. It was quite an incredible sight.’

He said it was unlikely, but not impossible, that it would have reached the ground and possibly reached the Atlantic Ocean.

Owens said, “Normally these little shooting stars burn up and everything disappears and evaporates into the atmosphere, but the thing last night was bigger than a little bit of dust that causes normal shooting stars.

“Last night might have been the size of a golf ball or maybe a cricket ball, maybe even bigger than that.

James Williams saw it from his front yard in south Glasgow and managed to record it on his cellphone and his doorbell camera. He described it as “all different colors like fireworks, but silent”.

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

“I was out walking my dog ​​and it was strangely ten o’clock at night and I saw the flash in the sky and pulled out my phone and recorded it,” he told PA news agency.

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

Dr Aine O'Brien

dr. Aine O’Brien described the sighting as a “wonderful, beautiful thing”

The UK Fireball Alliance announced Thursday evening that the fireball was a “natural object”.

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

She said, “Hopefully it was a meteorite and given how long it lasted, we may have the first Scottish meteorite in over 100 years.”

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

She said it wasn’t anything to worry about.

“It’s just a wonderful thing, beautiful. We get shooting stars, meteors all the time.”

dr. O’Brien added that it was just “lucky” weather conditions and the timing of the fireball allowed many people to see and record it.

dr. Marc Sarzi, head of research for the Armagh Planetarium, said the fireball was “very spectacular”, but he did not consider it a “large-scale event”.

He said meteor showers made of tiny particles left behind by comets normally occurred in the summer.

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

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