'It was breathtaking:' Meteor lights up the sky across the country

A fireball that lit up the skies above Lancashire – and the UK – last night is likely to have been a small piece of an asteroid entering the Earth’s atmosphere, scientists said.

Monday, 1st March 2021, 11:47 am
Updated Monday, 1st March 2021, 1:35 pm

The meteor was spotted shortly before 10pm and sent a sonic boom across southern England, according to boffins from the UK Fireball Alliance, (UKFall), which is led by staff at the Natural History Museum.

It was also seen by Owen Holmes, who inadvertently filmed the fireball streaking across the night sky on his dashcam as he drove on the M6 near Lancaster, while it was also witnessed by a number of others

in the county.

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Twitter user Owen Holmes - @Owentec - captured the meteor falling through the sky on his dashcam (top right) while travelling on the M6 at junction 33 near Lancaster. Photo: Owen Holmes

UKFall said the bright light could be seen from Ireland to the Netherlands, and the meteor is set to break the world record as the most-reported ever – with 758 such reports on International Meteor rganisation’s website so far.

Across the UK, many video doorbell and security cameras captured the astronomical event.

“The video recordings tell us its speed was about 30,000 miles per hour, which is too fast for it to be human-made ‘space junk’, so it’s not an old rocket or satellite,” said UKFall’s Dr Ashley King.

“The videos also allowed us to reconstruct its original orbit around the sun. In this case, the orbit was like an asteroid’s.

“This particular piece of asteroid spent most of its orbit between Mars and Jupiter, though sometimes got closer to the Sun than Earth is.”

UKFall said though the meteor fragmented in the atmosphere it is likely “a few fragments” reached the ground.

“If you do find a meteorite on the ground, ideally photograph it in place, note the location using your phone GPS, don’t touch it with a magnet, and, if you can, avoid touching it with your hands,” said Dr Katherine Joy of the University of Manchester.

Sam Harris, from Leeds, said he was in bed talking to his fiancee when he witnessed the “breathtaking” fireball.

“As I looked out of the window I saw what I thought at first was a huge firework, but it was descending in an ark,” the 28-year-old civil servant said.

“There was a trail of orange and green and it was incredibly bright!

“It was breathtaking… I couldn’t sleep for a few hours afterwards – I had a strange adrenaline kind of buzz!”