March 5, 2012
Fiery Meteor Reported In UK Skies Saturday Night
Both police telephone lines and Twitter alike were inundated with reports of what is believed to have been a large, fiery meteor streaking in the skies above the UK, with sightings ranging from the northern part of Scotland to the southern edge of England, various media outlets have reported.
According to BBC News, the sightings took place at roughly 21:40 GMT (about 9.40pm local time or 4:40pm EST) Saturday night. Multiple concerned citizens phoned law enforcement personnel, reporting a "bright light" or an "orange glow" in the night sky, fearing that it was the result of a plane crash. The British news agency said that police have ruled-out airplane-related incidents as the cause of the so-called "fireball."
Sam Jones of the Guardian said that hundreds of people took to Twitter to share their sightings on the microblogging website, with many of them describing what they saw as a "bright fireball with a large tail moving across the sky."
Jones also notes that an official with the Kielder Observatory in Northumberland also reported seeing the "huge fireball," adding that in "30 years observing the sky," this was the "best thing I have ever seen period."
Gary Fildes, director of the observatory, was hosting a seminar on the northern lights for 40 people at the facility when they spotted the meteor for approximately 30 to 40 seconds, Jones said.
Fildes told BBC News that they got "an incredible view" of fiery object, and said it was a "phenomenal" experience. He added that some of those attending the seminar "went absolutely mental" at the sight of the fireball, and began even asking whether or not it would be the end of life as we know it.
"It was massively exciting," he added.
In an interview with the Daily Mail's Tara Brady, author and astronomer Dr. David Whitehouse said that the object was approximately the size of a person's fist, and that it most likely was debris from a planet that never completely formed. He surmised that it originated from somewhere between Mars and Jupiter, where there are tens of thousands of rocks in orbit, and that it could have been in space for tens of billions of years.
"Judging by its brightness, it may 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," Whitehouse, the author of books on the sun, the moon, and the history of space exploration, told Brady.
Meteorwatch's Adrian West told Jones that he had seen the object in Berkshire, and that he believed that it might have wound up either in the English Channel or the Bay of Biscay. As for its origins, Fildes told the BBC that it would not be easy to determine where it came from, and that it was "open to conjecture."
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