Great Balls of Fire
I saw a fireball or meteor last night.
I was watching TV with the light on in my living room with the curtains on the North-facing window open. The fireball was bright enough to catch my eye in my peripheral vision.
I live just South of York, and at this point it would have been somewhere along a line passing North-South through York. The object flickered bright blueish white with a long gold trail and brightened before breaking up into still very bright pieces leading gold streaks across the sky. I would estimate it was at an elevation of around 30 degrees, and was in my field of view for around 10s during which it moved smoothly and continuously from East to West through and arc of around 80 degrees without dropping appreciably before I lost sight of it. I estimate that at its largest/nearest the fireball was a little smaller than my thumbnail at arms length. A little smaller than the moon would appear, but much larger than any other object in the night sky.
After the meteor had passed, I tweeted within 30s. The tweet is timed at 10:56.
Huge meteor just seen N. Yorks—
Tom Hartley (@tom_hartley) September 21, 2012
On twitter by searching “meteor” I found that others had seen the same fireball from Scotland, Liverpool and Ireland. So I think it must have been quite big, far away and high up.
I think this is a once-in-a-lifetime type event, and I was a bit disappointed to see that it hasn’t attracted as much attention in the media as I would expect. I suppose if you didn’t see it you might imagine people were describing a particularly bright shooting star, but this was quite different – much larger and slower. More like something out of a disaster movie. Whatever it was I would imagine it would have done quite a bit of damage had it hit the ground.
I am lucky to have experienced a few striking natural phenomena: a total eclipse of the sun in 1999 and a Yorkshire earthquake (which shook me up both literally and metaphorically), and now this – a meteor, or was it falling space debris? I hope astronomers will get to the bottom of it.
Update: 11/2/13 I added the image from lunarmeteoritehunters.blogspot.com. The meteor was truly exceptional, but amazingly I saw another, less spectacular, one a couple of weeks ago in the same part of the sky (and moving in the same direction, though much quicker) later reported in the York Press.