A fireball has been spotted across the length of the British Isles, starting as north as Scotland and ending as south as Devon. At about 21:40 GMT yesterday, eyewitnesses reported seeing a “bright light” with and “orange glow” and there were fears of an aircraft crashing through the atmosphere. However, these fears were calmed by what the Met Office tweeted, slightly incorrectly:
Hi All, for anyone seeing something in the night sky, we believe it was a meteorite.
Meteorites are large pieces of rock, which are usually the end-products of some planet forming event that didn’t quite succeed. They are the leftovers. When such a leftover piece enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it is burnt up due to friction with the atmospheric molecules. If it is big enough, it survives until impact on the Earth’s surface, earning the label ‘meteorite’ in the process. This is where the Met Office tweet goofed up; there is no evidence to show that the fireball actually landed somewhere on Earth.
The police forces were inundated with calls from frantic eyewitnesses and were busy assuring them that nothing was wrong. Here is a grainy video taken of the fireball:
From Excitement to the End of Life
Laura Yusuf of Surrey saw the fireball while driving on M6 and reported:
It was an amazing sight. Bright orange flames trailing behind it as it slowly burnt itself out,
However, many were less than rational about it. Gary Fildes, a director of a local Observatory, who also spotted the meteorite first hand, was at the receiving end of a lot of frantic calls. He recalls a particular one, which he apparently had fun answering:
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.
The meteor was spotted as far south as Devon, meaning that it had to be a big rock that was streaking across the skies.