Many EarthSky Facebook friends are talking about – and Twitter is buzzing about – an extremely bright meteor, or possibly human-made debris from space – that broke up over the northern U.K. tonight (September 21, 2012). The sightings came around 2200 UTC (5 p.m. CDT). The meteor was traveling east to west. Many saw it!
This video shows it, but you have to look carefully, or even play it twice. Stuart Pitkeathly from Dalbeattie, Scotland posted it on YouTube a couple of hours ago.
Our Facebook friend Jason Townsend said:
I saw it at 10:55 this evening going over Cumbria. It was amazing, bright, looked like a bunch of stars shooting through the sky. Couldn’t get me phone out quick enough to get a pic.
Our friend Graham Telford said:
… looked to be half dozen. To be honest, at first I thought it was a couple of planes too close together, but they were all on identical lines across sky. I didnt see them for long. I’m in the lowest part of Leeds so they disapeared over trees pretty quick towards Leeds Bradford Airport.
Our friend Annemarie Kenneth said:
… meteor with white and blue tip and orange tail … broke into smaller orange pieces … travelled from east to west.
The image below is from Craig Anderson, aka @Mr_Danger on Twitter:
There are no reports of the object hitting the ground. No one is sure yet whether it was a meteor – a natural object that had been moving in space for billions of years before encountering Earth’s atmosphere and vaporizing due to friction with the air, leaving a burning streak across our night sky. It might also have been Earth-orbiting space debris.
Another bright meteor was seen over the U.K. on March 3, 2012. In April 2012, a bright meteor streaked across the skies of California and Nevada. New Zealand also got a bright meteor in April, 2012.
Bottom line: Many in the northern U.K. tonight (September 21, 2012) saw an extremely bright meteor traveling east to west around 2200 UTC. It might have been natural debris from space, or possibly human-made debris. There are no reports so far of its hitting the ground.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.