Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Meteor 'fireball' Spotted In Night Sky Across UK





Huge Meteor Passing Over Whitley Bay , UK. 3 March 2012

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By Anna Leach • Get more from this authorBoffins wowed by rock worth weight in gold
Astronomers are searching for a highly expensive fist-sized meteorite that lit up the skies over Blighty on Saturday night. The fireball plunged to the ground somewhere in Devon, Normandy or in the Bay of Biscay - sparking fears of a downed aeroplane or missile attack.

The lump of space metals would be worth its weight in gold, Dr Marek Kukula, public astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich told The Independent: "Our own origins are locked up in these pieces of rock. They are pristine material from the beginning of the solar system and hold the ingredients of life. They are a real treasure-trove."
The Kielder Observatory in Northumberland reported the meteor as "huge fireball" travelling from north to south over Northumberland at 9.41pm, and rated its brightness at magnitude of -9. The breathless boffin manning the observatory's Twitter feed reported it as the highlight of his 30 years in astronomy.
First appearing over Scotland, the fiery space rock alarmed and enthralled folk across the UK; people in Strathclyde and Durham called the plod to report sightings of a damaged aircraft.
Others said the fireball looked like firework with a tail of many colours. John Kelly from Blackpool described it on Meteor reporting site AMSMeteors:
The head looked like a sparkler glowing gold with sparks coming off it and a white tail moving from left to right.
Amateur astronomer Phil Randall, from Sutton in Ashfield, said:
As an experienced amateur astronomer, this is the longest and brightest fireball I have ever seen and my fellow astronomers who were watching (we had a public open event at our observatory so there were probably 20 or 30 people watching) were all amazed and fascinated by the view. The object broke into 4 or 5 pieces directly above the viewing location.
Astronomers hope that a small fragment of it survived the fall through Earth's atmosphere and will turn up on land. ®

Meteor 'fireball' spotted in night sky across UK


Police inundated with calls as 'orange glow' is sighted by people from northern Scotland to southern England
A meteor passes the Global Rainbow laser installation in Whitley Bay
The meteor passes the Global Rainbow laser installation in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside. Photograph: Mike Ridley/NNP
A large, fiery meteor streaked through the skies above the UK on Saturday night, shooting from northern Scotland to southern Englandand provoking numerous concerned calls to the police.
The Kielder Observatory in Northumberland reported the sighting of a "huge fireball" travelling southwards at 9.41pm. In a tweet, the observatory added: "Of 30 years observing the sky #fireball best thing I have ever seen period."
Hundreds of people took to Twitter to report similar sightings acrossScotland and the north of England, with many describing a bright fireball with a large tail moving across the sky.
The Met Office tweeted: "Hi all, for anyone seeing something in the night sky, we believe it was a meteorite."
Some, however, found the sight alarming. 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.
Durham police spokeswoman said a number of calls came in around 9.45pm from concerned members of the public who had seen a "bright light or a fire in the sky" and believed it might have been an aircraft. "It has been confirmed with air traffic control that there are no incidents of aircraft in difficulty and nothing registered on radar," she said.
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 across Annandale and Eskdale.
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."
Air traffic control confirmed there were no concerns and all aircraft were accounted for.
The coastguards also received calls from the public asking if a flare had been used.
Gary Fildes, the director of the Kielder Observatory, said he was with a group of people who were overcome with excitement and wanted to know if it was "going to end life on Earth".
He was hosting a northern lights seminar at the observatory for 40 people when they spotted the fireball for 30-40 seconds.
"We got an incredible view. It was phenomenal," he said. "I was getting questions about what it is and is it going to end life on Earth? It was massively exciting."
Fildes said it would be difficult to determine where the meteor came from. "Trying to nail down the origin of the object will not be easy. It's open to conjecture," he said.
Adrian West, of Meteorwatch, said he spotted the meteor in Berkshire and believed it could have gone down in the Channel or the Bay of Biscay.
He told the BBC: "It had a very bright orange nucleus and a green tail. It was seen by hundreds, maybe thousands of people."
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 our planet.
Dr David Whitehouse, an author and astronomer, said: "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 said the object was probably about the size of a fist and could be 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 and has been in space for thousands of millions of years.
"There are tens 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."

Meteor witnessed across Britain


Sightings of the meteor have been reported in Scotland and as far south as Devon


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Police forces say they have received a number of calls reporting what is believed to have been a meteor.
A "huge fireball" was reported travelling from northern Scotland to southern England at about 21:40 GMT, amid fears a plane had crashed.
Police received reports of a "bright light" and "orange glow", but aircraft-related incidents were ruled out.
The Met Office tweeted: "Hi All, for anyone seeing something in the night sky, we believe it was a meteorite."
Meteors are particles from space that burn up as they plummet through Earth's atmosphere, sometimes emitting light, creating a "fireball" effect.
Meteorites are larger, more durable objects that survive heating in the atmosphere and land on Earth. It is not known if that happened on Saturday.
'Is life ending?'
Hundreds of people tweeted about what they had seen and the Kielder Observatory, in Northumberland, described it as a "huge fireball" travelling from north to south over the county.
Gary Fildes, observatory director, who was with a group of about 40 people when they spotted the meteor, said: "We got an incredible view. It was phenomenal.
"They went absolutely mental. I was getting questions about what it is and is it going to end life on Earth? It was massively exciting."
Mr Fildes, who has been an astronomer for 30 years, said he had never seen anything like it and described the experience as "one I'll never forget as long as I live".
Dr David Whitehouse, a science writer, said: "Occasionally you get a very big piece of debris coming into the Earth's atmosphere and this causes a fireball.
"When you see this fireball breaking up, you're seeing the wreckage of a planet that couldn't form properly when the solar system was young and a bit of rock that has been orbiting the Sun for perhaps thousands of millions of years."
'Ball of fire'

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I looked up and saw these two huge tails of light coming off it and I thought it was a plane on fire going down into Edinburgh”
Witness
Adrian West, of Meteorwatch, said he had seen reports of sightings from Scotland to Devon.
He said he saw the meteor in Berkshire and believed it could have gone down in the English Channel or the Bay of Biscay.
Adam Hepworth, from Helensburgh, in Argyll, told the BBC: "I was leaving work and getting into my car and I noticed a really bright light moving slowly across the sky.
"At first I thought it was a sky lantern but then I realised it couldn't have been due to the speed that it was moving. I then thought perhaps it is a plane that had caught fire.
"I knew it was really odd and sat there for a few minutes just staring at it."
Grampian Police said many people had reported seeing a "flare or a bright object with a tail", while Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary said it had received reports of a "large ball of fire in the sky".
Strathclyde Police said it had been "inundated" with calls, while Lothian and Borders Police also reported taking "quite a lot" of calls.

What are meteors?

  • Usually dust or sand grain-sized rocks travelling at hundreds of kilometres per second
  • Burn up on entering atmosphere, creating bright streaks
  • Seen "randomly" on most clear evenings
  • "Meteor showers" seen several times per year
  • Formed when Earth passes through comet debris
Durham Police said air traffic control had confirmed there had not been any incidents of aircraft in difficulties.
A force spokeswoman said: "The sightings are believed to be either an asteroid burning out or similar which has been restricted to the upper atmosphere only."
Laura Yusuf, of Mitcham, in Surrey, said she saw the meteor while travelling on the M6.
"It was an amazing sight. Bright orange flames trailing behind it as it slowly burnt itself out," she told the BBC.
Another witness, who called BBC Radio 5 Live's Stephen Nolan programme, said: "I looked up and saw these two huge tails of light coming off it and I thought it was a plane on fire going down into Edinburgh.
"It was massive, there was the red at the back of it, then these two huge white tails and then these blue bits at the very end."


Mystery fireball lights up sky

Updated: 17:05, Monday March 5, 2012

Mystery fireball lights up sky

A fiery meteor has lit up the sky over Victoria and Tasmania.

The object, described as a glowing red fireball moving horizontally across the sky about 10.45pm (AEDT) on Sunday, was an unusual sight for this time of year, according to astronomer David Reneke.
Observers say the meteor was visible for about 20 seconds.

Professor Reneke says he and his colleagues are at a loss to explain the timing and exact nature of the meteor.

It may have been a slow-moving piece of rock that ignited or a piece of space junk, he said.
'It's unprecedented, we don't seem to be in a meteor shower period at the moment,' Professor Reneke said.

'(Fireballs) tend to be very slow moving and they travel more horizontally than vertically... if you ever see one, they stick in your mind for the rest of your life.'

Professor Reneke says he has received dozens of reported sightings from across Victoria and Tasmania.

Social network site Twitter was abuzz on Monday with reports of the meteor.

The phenomenon comes after a fireball was reported in skies over the United Kingdom on Saturday, with police inundated with calls from concerned residents, The Guardian reports.

It is impossible to be sure if the sighted meteors in the UK and Australia are the same, Professor Reneke says.