Fireball which lit up night sky was space debris, experts conclude

·3-min read
The fireball lit up the night skies (@JillHemingway/PA) (PA Media)
The fireball lit up the night skies (@JillHemingway/PA) (PA Media)

A “brilliant fireball” seen in the skies above parts of the UK is believed to have been space debris, experts have said.

The UK Meteor Network said it had received almost 800 reports after the blazing orb was spotted in the night sky on Wednesday.

The organisation said that having studied many videos of the incident, it is now of the opinion “this was space debris”.

It comes after people spotted the ball of light in the skies above parts of Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland.

The network tweeted: “There have been nearly 800 reports of the fireball that was seen over UK last night.”

It said the preliminary trajectory has been calculated by the International Meteor Organisation, and this “indicates that the object, which we now believe to be space debris, would have landed in the Atlantic south of the Hebrides”.

The network added: “Having studied many videos of last night’s fireball over Ireland, Northern England and Scotland, we are of the opinion this was space debris.”

Reports starting coming in at about 9pm on Wednesday, mainly from Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Danny Nell, 21, was walking his dog in Johnstone, near Glasgow, when he saw the fireball.

He told the PA news agency: “It was strangely enough 10pm on the dot, and I just saw the flash in the sky and pulled out my phone and recorded it.

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

Steve Owens, an astronomer and science communicator at the Glasgow Science Centre, saw the fireball as it passed over.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “It was incredible. I was sitting in my living room at exactly 10 o’clock last night and saw out of the window, due south, this brilliant fireball, this meteor streaking across the sky, and I could tell that it was something special because I could see through broken cloud.

“It wasn’t perfectly visible; I could see that it was fragmenting, breaking apart, there were little bits coming off it.

“Normally, if you see a meteor or a shooting star, they are just tiny little streaks of light, they last for a fraction of a second. This one was streaking across the sky for at least 10 seconds – probably longer than that – and it travelled from due south all the way across to the west, so it was a pretty incredible sight.”

He said it is possible it could have landed but added it is “highly unlikely” to have done so in Scotland.

He said: “Normally these tiny little streaks of light, these little shooting stars, they all burn up and everything just vanishes and evaporates in the atmosphere, but the thing last night was bigger than a little bit of dust.

“The one last night might have been the size of a golf ball or maybe a cricket ball, maybe bigger than that, so it’s certainly not impossible that bits could have landed.”