mysterious | 

Fireball ‘may have hit Belfast’ as space debris spotted shooting across skies

Over 200 sightings of a mysterious "fireball" crossing the night sky over Northern Ireland and Scotland have been reported

The head of research at the Armagh Planetarium has said the fireball may have landed on Earth somewhere

Niamh CampbellBelfast Telegraph

Over 200 sightings of a mysterious "fireball" crossing the night sky over Northern Ireland and Scotland have been reported, as a leading meteorologist says it “may have hit Belfast” had it zoomed across hours previous.

The UK Meteor Network said it began receiving reports of a fireball spotted about 9pm on Wednesday.

The scientific community later tweeted that they believed the fast-moving flashing light to be “space debris” – defunct human-made objects in space that are usually within Earth’s orbit, which no longer serve a useful function, such as old pieces of satellites or metal.

Dr Marc Sarzi, head of research at the Armagh Planetarium, said it’s possibly that whatever the object was, it may have landed on Earth somewhere, and could be recovered, referencing the Bovedy meteorite which crashed in Northern Ireland 53 years ago, that has some of its remains preserved in the planetarium.

"I don’t know the size of it, but it was pretty bright, so was certainly only some metres across,” Dr Sarzi told the BBC.

"If it had come across six hours earlier, it may have hit Belfast.”

He added that he doesn’t think the event is too major, and said the only asteroid to cause significant damage or injuries on Earth to date has been the one that hit Chelyabinsk in Russia nine years ago, which injured over 1,600 people in the blast, mostly due to broken glass.

Belfast man Joe McNeill tweeted a short clip of the sky sighting on Wednesday evening, and said his “phone hasn’t stopped since”, with lots of media outlets getting in touch asking to use the footage, which has been viewed nearly 80,000 times to date.

“I noticed a bit of an orange streak coming across the sky and had no idea what it was,” said the Dunmurry resident.

"At first I thought it was a firework, then I realised it started to change colour and I couldn’t hear anything from it. I took the phone out to start to record it.

“I’d say I’m a sky-gazer, I’m always looking up. It’s the first I’ve ever seen anything like that, as bright on that scale, absolutely amazing.

“At first I saw a flash and thought it was very close. I was waiting on hearing a bang, but nothing came.”

He added that he’s holding out on physicist and TV personality Brian Cox getting back to him regarding his video, as he’s “a big fan of Brian” and hopes he gets in touch.

Danny Nell was walking his dog in Johnstone, just west of Paisley and Glasgow, when he saw the fireball.

"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," the Glasgow resident said.

"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, astronomer and science communicator at the Glasgow Science Centre, saw the fireball as it passed over Scotland on Wednesday evening.

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.

"And 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" it landed in Scotland.

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