We had many reports of a large greenish fireball – a bright meteor – seen over England and Wales on the evening of May 8, 2013. The video below shows it. Did you see it? Report your sighting here.
The object streaked across the sky in a northerly direction at around 9:45 p.m. local time last night. Sightings came from Cornwall, Hampshire, Lancashire, South Wales and Worcestershire.
EarthSky Facebook friend Karen Maltman said:
Hi guys, I’m a little shaky right now. Okay. I’m out stargazing (Dorset UK) also on the phone to my mother who lives appox 4 miles away. Suddenly something catches my eye from the left. I have never witnessed anything like it in my life. It was a huge, and I mean HUGE, fireball glowing orange at the front and a massive long bright white trail behind it tappering to a point. I hear a shhhhhhhh and even smelt a very slight burning smell. It appeared the height a small aircraft would fly and appeared to be coming down rather than going horizonally. It went straight past me. OMG OMG OMG I was saying on the phone to mum … when I finally spat the words out of what I was seeing, she ran out the back door of her home (3 miles away). I said its gone and with that she saw a flash of brillant white light fill the sky and then darkness! I’m not joking, it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck as it was so big. What have I just witnessed?
Another friend of EarthSky on Facebook, Danny Praught said:
… massive tail, brighter than any other I have ever seen. And it wasn’t even dark yet, blue skies in the background. It was awesome although for a moment i expected an impact. It was that large.
The object might have been a rock from outer space, a natural object. Or it might have been a stray piece of the abundant human-made space debris – aka space junk – that orbits Earth. Either way, it encountered or fell into Earth’s atmosphere and vaporized.
Was it part of Halley’s Comet, as some media are reporting? We have not seen any evidence that it was. It’s true that a meteor shower peaked earlier this week (on Sunday morning, May 5, 2013). The Eta Aquarid meteor shower does stem from Halley’s Comet. It is debris left behind in the comet’s orbit. But, until someone shows that this meteor came from the direction of the Eta Aquarid’s radiant point on the sky’s dome, we’ll have to assume it’s just a random piece of either natural or human-made space debris … like so many other chunks of debris that fall into Earth’s atmosphere and vaporize in the course of every yeqr.
In fact, bright meteor sightings like this one are common if you consider Earth as a whole. They happen several times each year. The most famous recent example – the brightest and most explosive meteor sighting in a century – exploded over Russia’s Ural mountains on February 15, 2013. That explosion, which occurred some 8-12 miles (14-20 kilometers) above ground, shattered windows in and around the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia and caused some 1,000 injuries, but thankfully no deaths. Scientists are now saying it was the most powerful meteor explosion in Earth’s atmosphere since the Tunguska event in 1908.
But meteor events with the explosive power of the February 15, 2013 Russian meteor are very rare. Meanwhile, there are many, many sightings like the May 8, 2013 meteor sighting over the UK. The last one we are aware of lit up the U.S. East Coast on March 22, 2013.
Bottom line: A very bright meteor or fireball – greenish in color and traveling in a northerly direction – was seen by many over the UK last night, May 8, 2013.
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.