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Hundreds of people across Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England spotted an unusual fireball lighting up the night sky on Wednesday.
It was unclear whether it was a meteor or space junk, said Aine O’Brien, a PhD student at the University of Glasgow and a member of the UK Fireball Alliance, which tracks sightings of meteors. The fireball was visible in the sky for 10 to 20 seconds – an unusually long period of time for a meteor – but the way the object broke up in the night sky suggested it was a space rock.
“It has properties of both. We have people who process the images and determine the trajectory,” O’Brien said. “At the moment, we can only guess. Anyway, it was an amazing event.
Most fireballs are only visible for a few seconds, she said. A meteorite that hit a driveway in central England last year fell through the sky for seven seconds.
The fireball was spotted around 10 p.m. local time on Wednesday. The relatively early hour, plus the clear night sky, meant many people saw the fireball even in built-up areas such as Glasgow, O’Brien said. Many of those who were lucky enough to spot the fireball shared videos from cell phones and door cameras on social media.
Richard Kacerek, founder of the UK Meteor Observation Network, said the group’s initial assessment was that it was space debris. “Judging from the videos recorded by the public, it appears to be moving much slower than a meteor,” he said.
Cis Verbeeck, president of the International Meteor Organization, said the group had received more than 800 reports on its website. so what used this information to compile a possible trajectory of the fireball.
The path of the fireball suggested that it passed over the Northern Channel, which separates Scotland and Northern Ireland, and ended its journey somewhere above Islay, an island off the coast of the west coast of Scotland.