Huge fireballs shoot across night sky in spectacular 'meteor' shower ... but turns out it was probably space junk falling back to Earth
- 20 orange objects soared through the night sky at speeds in excess of 18,000 miles an hour
- High number of eye-witness accounts suggest the sightings may have been bits of space hardware
- Meteors flash by while bits of old spacecraft appear in the sky for longer
By Sam Shead
Experts claim that the suspected meteors seen soaring through UK skies last night may have been bits of man-made satellites.
If they turn out to be right then
hundreds of people will have been looking up at bits of old spacecraft
burning up as they entered the atmosphere.
The large number of eyewitness accounts also support the expert's theory as meteors - or fragments of rock - flash across the sky in an instant while incoming space hardware takes longer to pass over.
Meteors or old bits of man-made space equipment? Experts and local reports suggest last night's firework display may have been bits of space junk re-entering Earth's atmosphere
Dr Tim O'Brien, associate director of
the Jordell Bank Observatory, told the BBC it was probably 'orbital
debris from satellites.
'[The object was] probably 80 miles up or so, high up, moving very fast, actually, 18,000 miles an hour, probably, at least.'
Colin Johnston of Armagh Planetarium told the BBC a meteor shower had now been anticipated.
'It could be a bit of natural space junk which has been floating around the universe for billions of years, or it could be a man-made satellite which has burned up,' he said.
The bright lights were seen streaking through the sky in the North of England, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
They were seen as far as the Shetland Islands in Scotland as well as in Wales and Norfolk in East Anglia.
Many people in Manchester, Leeds and Blackpool have also been busy posting pictures of last night's event.
Jim Ramsay, 44, spotted the bright light while taking pictures of the night sky near Squinty Bridge in Glasgow city centre
Jim Ramsay, 44, spotted the bright light while taking pictures of the night sky near Squinty Bridge in Glasgow city centre.
'I was taking photos when I suddenly saw this really bright white light approaching,' said Jim, from Glasgow.
'It kept coming towards me and I wondered what it could be as it didn't seem like a plane or a helicopter and was too bright for a Chinese lantern.
'It was visible for at least 45 seconds, then it split into about 10 pieces all travelling at the same rate, before disappearing.
'It was really spectacular and the talk of the town afterwards.'
Civil engineering student Craig Usher, 23, was taking photos of the north star at Loch Thom in Scotland when he saw the meteor out the corner of his eye.
'I suddenly saw this flash out of the side of my eye and saw a meteor breaking into about 20 pieces,' said Craig, who is a student at Glasgow University.
'They were heading relatively slowly across the sky so I quickly turned my camera around and started taking some photos.
Tom Heaton, 28, was star gazing with his girlfriend for the first time when they saw the meteor in Galloway Forest Park in Scotland
'I was absolutely gobsmacked to see the meteor and really pleased to have got the pictures.'
Tom Heaton, 28, was star gazing with his girlfriend for the first time when they saw the meteor in Galloway Forest Park in Scotland.
'It was a one in a million chance we were in just the right place at the right time,' he said.
'At first I thought a plane had crashed, but then I realised it was a meteor. We were very lucky to spot it.'
Meteors are particles from space that burn up as they plummet through Earth's atmosphere, sometimes emitting light and creating a 'fireball' effect.
Meteorites are larger, more durable objects that survive heating in the atmosphere and land on Earth.