Sightings of meteor reported across the UK
Sunday 04 March 2012
Police forces across the UK have received numerous calls after a large fireball, thought to be a meteor, was spotted in the sky.
Reports of a “bright light” and an “orange glow” were received by police across Scotland and the north of England around 9.40pm yesterday.
The Met Office tweeted: “Hi All, for anyone seeing something in the night sky, we believe it was a meteorite.”
The Kielder Observatory also reported the sighting of a “huge fireball” travelling from north to south over Northumberland at 9.41pm.
The Observatory posted on Twitter: “Of 30 years observing the sky £fireball best thing I have ever seen period.”
Meteors are particles from space that burn up in a streak of light as they enter the Earth's atmosphere, whereas meteorites are larger objects that survive the trip and reach the surface of the Earth.
Dr David Whitehouse, an author and astronomer, said: “Judging by its brightness, it may have have been large enough to survive and hit the ground but until people work out its trajectory we won't have any idea where it might have come down.”
Dr Whitehouse said the object was about the size of a fist and was probably the debris of a planet that never properly formed.
“It's a chunk of rock that's probably come from somewhere between Mars and Jupiter has been in space for thousands of millions of years.
“There are 10s of thousands of bits of rock and grains of sand orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. Some of it comes out of that orbit and some of it hits the Earth.”
A spokesman for Strathclyde Police said the force had been “inundated” with calls about a bright object in the sky across the west of Scotland.
A Durham Police spokeswoman said a number of calls came in around 9.45pm from concerned members of public who had seen a “bright light or a fire in the sky” and believed it may have been incidents involving an aircraft.
“It has been confirmed with air traffic control that there are no incidents of aircraft in difficult and nothing registered on radar,” she said.
“The sightings are believed to be either an asteroid burning out or similar which has been restricted to the upper atmosphere only.”
Grampian Police said reports of people seeing a “flare or a bright object with a tail” were received from across the region.
And Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary said numerous calls were made about a “large ball of fire in the sky” across Annandale and Eskdale. One user wrote on the force's Facebook page: “It was awesome to see! Really big and bright!”
A force spokesman wrote on Facebook: “A number of reports have been received from the public reporting observing bright lights or what is described as a large ball of fire in the sky.
“Inquiry has confirmed that this is actually a low level meteor shower.”
Meanwhile, Lothian and Borders Police said it had received “quite a lot” of calls from members of the public.
Strathclyde Police and Central Scotland Police checked with air traffic control who confirmed there were no concerns and all aircraft was accounted for.
Coastguard also received calls from members of the public asking if a flare had been used. One call was made to the coastguard in Stornoway, with one person reporting seeing a flare in the sky.
Hundreds of people took to Twitter to report similar sightings across Scotland and the north of England.
People described seeing a bright fireball moving across the sky with a large tail.
Adrian West, of Meteorwatch, said he had seen reports of sightings from Scotland to Devon.
He said he spotted the meteor in Berkshire and believed it could have gone down in the English Channel or the Bay of Biscay.
Mr West told the BBC it was a "fireball flying from north to south", that was "very bright in the sky" and lasted for a few seconds.
He said: "It had a very bright orange nucleus and a green tail.
"It was seen by hundreds, maybe thousands of people."
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