People described a bright ball of fire moving across the sky with a large tail
By TARA BRADY
UPDATED: 02:50 EST, 5 March 2012
Police forces across the UK were inundated with calls last night after a large fireball, thought to be a meteor, was spotted in the sky.
Reports of a ‘bright light’ and an ‘orange glow’ were received by police across Scotland and the north of England at about 9.40pm yesterday.
Some people are believed to have phoned the police fearing a plane had crashed.
A spectacular shot of the meteor taken by amateur astronomer Graeme Whipps in northern Scotland
The Met Office tweeted: ‘Hi all, for anyone seeing something in the night sky, we believe it was a meteorite.’
The Kielder Observatory also reported the sighting of a ‘huge fireball’ travelling from north to south over Northumberland.
The Observatory posted on Twitter: ‘Of 30 years observing the sky, fireball best thing I have ever seen period.’
Meteors are particles from space that burn up in a streak of light as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere, whereas meteorites are larger objects that survive the trip and reach the surface of the Earth.
Dr David Whitehouse, an author and astronomer, said: ‘Judging by its brightness, it may have have been large enough to survive and hit the ground but until people work out its trajectory we won’t have any idea where it might have come down.’
Dr Whitehouse said the object was about the size of a fist and was probably the debris of a planet that never properly formed.
‘It’s a chunk of rock that’s probably come from somewhere between Mars and Jupiter has been in space for thousands of millions of years.
‘There are tens of thousands of bits of rock and grains of sand orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. Some of it comes out of that orbit and some of it hits the Earth.’
Amateur astronomer, Graeme Whipps, spotted the bright light while taking photos of the aurora in Chapel of Garioch near Aberdeen.
Graeme, 48, who works as a meteorologist, captured the image with a Canon 40D, 15 second exposure.
He said: ‘It looked like it was moving south or southwest, whilst brightening.’
He is one of a number of people across Britain who saw a meteor across the north of England and Scotland.
Mike Ridley, an amateur photographer, of Durham City, managed to capture a stunning image of the meteorite against the backdrop of the ‘Global Rainbow’ – a laser display by artist Yvette Mattern installed in Whitley Bay to celebrate the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad in the north-east of England.
Mr Ridley, 49, a Quality Assurance Inspector for Nissan in Washington Tyne and Wear, said: ‘I was standing with my friend when we saw a bright light in the sky moving really fast.
‘I was there to photograph the laser show in Whitley Bay, but the light caught my eye so I turned the camera around.
‘At first I thought it was a firework, then my friend said he thought it was a meteor or comet – I caught the white light and an orange glowing tail in my picture.
Amazing: The stunning meteor is captured shooting across the sky behind a laser show in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside. The shot was taken by amateur photographer Mike Ridley using time-lapse photography
‘I managed to capture the trail it left because I took my photo with a long exposure.
‘The light was heading north to south. It lasted thirty seconds or more, It was really spectacular. We waited around to see if we would see anything else, but it was over very quickly.’
A spokesman for Strathclyde Police said the force had been ‘inundated’ with calls about a bright object in the sky across the west of Scotland.
In Durham, calls started to come in at about 9.45pm to its constabulary from concerned members of public who had seen a ‘bright light or a fire in the sky’ and believed it may have been incidents involving an aircraft.
She said: ‘The sightings are believed to be either an asteroid burning out or similar which has been restricted to the upper atmosphere only.’
Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary said numerous calls were made about a ‘large ball of fire in the sky’ across Annandale and Eskdale.
One user wrote on the force’s Facebook page: ‘It was awesome to see! Really big and bright!’
Hundreds of people took to Twitter to report where they had seen the shower and Adrian West, of Meteorwatch, said he had seen reports of sightings from Scotland to Devon.
He spotted the meteor in Berkshire and believed it could have gone down in the English Channel or the Bay of Biscay.
Mr West told the BBC it was a ‘fireball flying from north to south’, that was ‘very bright in the sky’ and lasted for a few seconds.
He said: ‘It had a very bright orange nucleus and a green tail.
‘It was seen by hundreds, maybe thousands of people.’