The Great British Fireball

March 5, 2012 — Leave a comment

On Saturday night (March 3rd) one of the most spectacular fireballs ever was seen over the UK. Hundreds of people called the police fearing that a plane was on fire and several videos of the event were captured and shared online immediately. The fireball – just a good name for a very bright meteor – lasted 15-20 seconds and occurred at 9:40pm on a Saturday night, it was seen from the South West across to the North of the country. Thus it was reported in the national press in great detail the following day.

The American Meteor Society just posted a good post-event analysis and are soliciting further eyewitness reports. They’re producing a map of various accounts (see below image) and attempting to trace the 3D track of the meteor over the Earth. 

One note from their write-up points out that many saw the fireball as brighter than a full moon. It contains a fact that I hadn’t really considered before:

A meteor the size of a softball can produce light equivalent to the full moon for a short instant. The reason for this is the extreme velocity at which these objects strike the atmosphere. Even the slowest meteors are still traveling at 10 miles per SECOND, which is much faster than a speeding bullet. 

Daniel Fischer has links to various online resources regarding the fireball, including the video below, taken near Whitley Bay, where a number of people appear to have seen the fireball whilst watching an open-air laser display show.

If you did happen to see it – lucky you! If you know the time, direction and duration of what you saw then the AMS would like to hear from you.

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