Mystery fireball spotted in the sky above Preston
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Farida Bana and her children were mesmerised by the strange flaming object when they caught sight of it above Moor Park at 8.15pm on Tuesday (August 30).
The family watched it for some time as it made a ‘very slow’ descent towards earth. So slow that it almost appeared suspended in the sky.
When Farida used her phone to zoom in for a closer look, the object revealed itself as a v-shaped trail of fire.
"My kids were convinced it was an asteroid,” she told the Post.
"It fascinated them, but the little one got worried thinking a big meteor was coming and was going to crash into us!
"It was moving very slowly. Unfortunately, we had to get in the car and drive the other way, so we never saw where it ended up crashing.”
The mystery fireball was reportedly seen by others that evening.
“I also saw it,” said Irene May, from Fulwood. “It was not moving....it was very odd.”
Meteor, lightning or even E.T.? – What could it be?
Seeing her children excited by what they had witnessed, Farida sought answers by reaching out to her local Facebook page.
A number of people said it was likely to be a meteor burning up after entering the earth’s atmosphere.
Some suggested it might be a type of lightning or other meteorological phenomenon, whilst others joked that it might be those pesky E.T.’s again or even “Superman entering the atmosphere”.
But what do the experts think? We asked two astrophysicists from Preston’s UCLan what they thought caused the fire in the sky.
What the experts say...
Victor Debattista, Professor of Astrophysics, kindly examined the pictures of the fireball for us.
He has spent years studying the cosmos and unravelling its many mysteries. He soon ruled out the meteor theory.
"I’ve never seen a meteor that looks like this even when they have been bright fireballs,” said the professor.
“Particularly if it was moving slowly, it’s unlikely to be a meteor.
“The photo looks suspiciously like fire more than a meteor. However there’s no obvious smoke trailing the fire, so we can probably rule out things like Chinese lanterns.
"It might be some form of satellite falling back to earth. So if I had to guess, this is what this person saw.
"In some ways this is more exciting than a meteor because these types of events are rarer.”
But just when we think we have an answer, things get even stranger...
Our second expert is Dr Megan Argo, an astrophysicist and senior lecturer at UCLan. She studies galaxies, supernovae and black holes using high-resolution radio telescopes.
Dr Argo examined the pictures and checked the logs for any astronomical activity over the UK that might explain it. She also checked the databases recording the re-entry of any rockets or satellites that might have fallen to earth and burned up in its atmosphere.
But the results of her search only added to the mystery of the Preston fireball.
She said: “I've had a look at the logs and there were no other reports of fireballs over the UK that evening.
"Meteors/fireballs tend to move quickly anyway (a few seconds at most), so a meteor explanation seems unlikely from the description.
“In appearance it looks more like a rocket re-entry event, but a quick look at the re-entry database doesn't show any rocket bodies re-entering the atmosphere that evening either.
“On that basis, I doubt it's astronomical.”
So the fire in the sky over Preston remains a mystery. For now at least.
But as everyone’s favourite FBI agents would say, the truth is out there...somewhere in the skies over Lancashire.
What do you think caused the fireball? Did you see it? Let us know in our Facebook comments!