Fireball Meteor or Re-Entering Satellite? “Something” Broke Up Over the UK on Friday

by Fraser Cain on September 22, 2012

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Twitter is all abuzz with sightings of a huge fireball meteor that streaked across the skies Friday night at approximately 22:00 UTC. There are reports from Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Central England.

I’m going to link a bunch of videos so you can check out the event from multiple angles, but I want to make a completely unscientific judgement: it kind of looks like a re-entering spacecraft. Take a look at what the Jules Verne spacecraft looked like when it came back into the Earth’s atmosphere. See how it broke up into all those pieces? And don’t let anyone fool you with this picture. It was taken about 3 years ago in the Netherlands.

Phil made a similar observation, but he’s still on the fence. We’ll have to wait for someone official to tell us what it was.

Did you see it? Did you get a video?

I’ll give you an update as soon as I know anything else.

Here are some videos. Fair warning, there’s a lot of bad language in almost all the videos. I can’t blame them, I’d probably be swearing too. Just keep that in mind as you watch with your kids.

Here’s my favorite. Although it’s not very close up, you can really see the shape and structure of the meteor as it came apart into multiple pieces:

Next, here’s a much more detailed video from dongman45 as it passes over the Liverpool/Manchester area. You can see the meteor much closer now, and it no longer has all the separate pieces.

Another great one that shows the meteor streaming past from a side angle. You can see dozens of pieces trailing together.

Here’s another from Scotland (warning… language):

Another great one (warning… even more language. Actually… it’s all bad language)

P.S. You want to be very skeptical when you’re evaluating meteor videos during events like this. In my experience, the trolls will quickly show up and post photos and videos to older spacecraft re-entries and meteors. So if you see this picture, or this video, you’ll know it’s a fake.

About 

Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay.

Jamie Shepherd September 22, 2012 at 10:19 AM

Hi Fraser – My money is on a natural object. Movement over UK is East to West and most satellites orbit West to East. From eyeballing the photos, a very rough ground track, heading from bearing 80 degrees towards bearing 260 degrees. Passing over Middlesborough, Isle of Man and the Irish border area with possible meteorites in the North of the Republic of Ireland, and more likely to the west, that’s where it was headed anyway. The very slow velocity makes meteorites likely. Also, with the shallow angle of entry and pronounced lateral spread of fragments this is going to be a very large strewn field!

Fraser Cain September 22, 2012 at 7:38 PM

It’s going to be a fortune for anyone who finds the pieces.

Dave September 22, 2012 at 2:57 PM

I was lucky enough to see this myself. I’m in Wigan, about 10 miles North of where the Warrington video was taken. Just popped out for a cig (see, smokings not all bad!).

It came from the east heading west and was (approx) 45-50 deg above the northern horizon. Lasted for about 30 seconds and ‘appeared’ to travel much slower than meteorites I’ve seen before.

Whatever it was, I’m glad I got to see it.

Aqua4U September 22, 2012 at 11:15 PM

Blank me! as in focke dat jah? Why profane? Spank me then.. were I to have seen it, I might have used expletives deleted too? Dang.. das stuff afalling…… Just hope it wasn’t radioactive ruskie artrifactorszuh!

Boone_1781 September 22, 2012 at 11:25 PM

That was a chunk, wa’nt it?

Andrew Thomas September 23, 2012 at 11:41 AM

Remember folks, when you’re filming the first alien spacecraft to make contact, either turn the sound off or try to think of something more momentous and profound to say than “F*** me”, or even “Could be worth a lot of money, this film” (typical Scot there, lol).

Dave Walker September 23, 2012 at 6:21 PM

Astronaut poo.

DarkGnat September 25, 2012 at 2:17 PM

The speed of the object seems to be consistent with a satellite or some other orbital object. Could be a spent rocket stage or something. Meteors tend to be much much faster.

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