A fireball was witnessed crossing the night sky over Scotland and Northern Ireland on Wednesday, in what one astronomer described as an “incredible” sight.
UK Meteor Network said it received the first reports of a fireball at about 10pm BST and they have now had 800 reports, and believe it was heading north above the coast between Scotland and Northern Ireland
One Twitter user filmed what she thought was a “shooting star” over the town of Larbert, between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Steve Owens, an astronomer and science communicator at the Glasgow Science Centre, said it was a “brilliant fireball”.
Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, he said: “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.”
Owens said the sighting was unusual in its duration.
“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 that while it was possible it could have landed, it was “highly unlikely” to have been in Scotland.
“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,” Owens said.
“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.
“It looked like it was travelling a fair distance as these things do and it was fairly flat across the sky as I saw it.”
Owens said UK Meteor Network was trying to calculate the fireball’s trajectory based on hundreds of reports from Scotland and Northern Ireland.
He said: “It looked to me like it was heading towards the west and given that people in Northern Ireland were reporting seeing it, it could well have passed over land and ended up in the Atlantic. It’s certainly not impossible that it landed: finding it will be the challenge.”
Danny Nell, 21, was walking his dog in Johnstone, just west of Paisley and Glasgow, when he saw the fireball.
Speaking to PA Media he said: “I was walking my dog and 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.”
On Thursday morning, the UK Meteor Network said they believed the object was probably space debris that “would have landed in the Atlantic south of the Hebrides”.