Bright meteor or space debris broke up over UK on September 21

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.

If you saw the meteor, you can report it at the American Meteor Society’s website. You can also view meteor sightings there. There is no particular major meteor shower going on at this time.

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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:

Meteor over northern UK September 21, 2012 via Craig Anderson.

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.

September 21, 2012

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