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Hundreds of people across Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England saw an unusual fireball light up the night sky on Wednesday.
It was not clear whether it was a meteor or space debris, said Aine O’Brien, a PhD student at the University of Glasgow and a member of the Fireball Alliance in the UK, which tracks meteor sightings. The fireball was visible in the sky for 10 to 20 seconds – an unusually long time for a meteor – but the fragmented object in the night sky suggested it was a space rock.
“It has the properties of both. We’ve got people processing the footage and working on its trajectory,” O’Brien said. “At this point, we’re just guessing. Either way it was an amazing event.”
Most fireballs are only visible for a few seconds, he said. A meteorite that hit a road in central England last year fell from the sky for seven seconds.
The fireball was spotted around 10pm on Wednesday. The relatively early hour, and the clear night sky, meant many people reported seeing the fireball even in urbanized areas like Glasgow, O’Brien said. Many lucky enough to see Fireball shared their cell phone and dash cam videos on social media.
Richard Kacer, founder of the UK Meteor Observing Network, said the team’s initial assessment was space debris. “From the videos shot by the public, it looks like it’s moving much slower than a meteor would,” he said.
Cis Verbeeck, president of the International Meteorological Organization, said the group had received more than 800 reports on its website. and then he used this information to piece together a possible trajectory of the fireball.
He suggested that the path of the fireball passed over the North Channel, which divides Scotland and Northern Ireland, and ended its journey over Islay, an island off the west coast of Scotland.