Sunday, March 20, 2016

Spectacular Fireball Flashes Across the UK Skies

Fireball over UK seen on Mar. 17. Credit: Paul Gilbert

Skies across the UK were brightened up on Thursday, Mar. 17, when a meteor flew across the country and the moment was captured on video. Witnesses have described the object as a green flash moving south to north for a few seconds, leaving a magnesium-white trail. Sightings have been reported in locations including London, Hampshire, Stafford and on the east coast of England at 03:16 GMT.

Its color has prompted people on Twitter to describe it as the St Patrick's Day meteor. One Twitter user said the meteor was also sighted in Germany.

Pictured around 3:20 a.m., the UK Meteor Observation Network snapped the green and blue lights hurtling throughout the sky during the early hours of Thursday morning, with magnesium in the meteor believed to be responsible for the color show.

Describing the meteor as "spectacular", Dr John Mason of the British Astronomical Association said it was bright enough to be categorized as a fireball.

He believes it was a piece of cosmic rock which almost certainly came from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

He said the green color was caused by the meteor heating up the oxygen in the earth's atmosphere.

"Meteors of this kind are not uncommon," he added, saying he estimated there was at least one a week over the UK.

An astronomer at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth, Dr Karen Masters, said thousands of these objects hit the Earth every day.

She said: "Most of them over the oceans or over uninhabited parts of the world. It is quite rare that one goes over such a populated place and be so bright."

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