22 Sep 2012

Meteor shower ‘probably space junk’

A suspected meteor shower spotted in the skies above the United Kingdom was probably space junk, experts say.

Sightings of what is believed to be a meteor shower shooting across the night sky and breaking up into pieces, were reported on Friday evening in parts of Northern Ireland, central Scotland as well as the north of England, the Midlands and East Anglia.

It is uncertain, as what the bright lights actually were, with Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, tweeting that there was “no real consensus on whether last night’s spectacular fireball was a space rock burning up or space junk (bit of spacecraft)”.

The Met Office tweeted, however, that they believed it had been a meteorite.

Shetland coastguard said they received what is thought to be Scotland’s most northerly sighting of the meteor.

One person rang them just after 23:00 BST, reporting a bright white light in the sky over the Stacks of Duncansby in Caithness.

John Davies from The Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, said: “The space around the earth is full of lots of small pieces of debris, tiny pieces of rock that have chipped off asteroids, dust that has fallen off comets and when these things burn up in the atmosphere we see them as shooting stars.

“They happen all the time, a few every hour, but big ones are much rarer and this seems to have been a comparatively big piece.

“Obviously I don’t know how big but I would guess maybe a metre by a metre, the size of a tea chest”.