Fireball may have been space junk

 

The huge fireball which lit up skies across Ireland and the UK may have been a space rock or a manmade piece of material, astronomers have said.

The trail of fragments passed across the sky at about 10.55pm on Friday night. Sightings were reported from coast to coast; Cork to Donegal, Dublin to Galway and in the midlands including Carlow and Longford. There were sightings across the UK and as far as the Netherlands.

The incident was much longer than a standard shooting star or meteor, "it lasted 40 seconds or so," Dr Tim O''Brian of Jodrell Bank Observatory, UK told BBC News.

Dr O'Brien said it was a "bigger chunk of something" and "typically the ones that last a bit longer are space junk".

"There is no real consensus on whether this was a chunk of space rock or a manmade piece of material," he added.

Mostly these things burned up in the atmosphere but if anything came down it would have landed in the ocean, he said.

David Moore of Astronomy Ireland said the cause of the fireball was not yet clear. “It's a piece of space debris, but whether it's manmade or natural is not known,”he said.

He said it was too slow for natural debris and was going the wrong direction for manmade debris. “It's probably a space rock that has skidded across the atmosphere”.

Mr Moore witnessed the incident and said it may be “one of the best ever seen” in Europe and was a “huge event”. He described a trail of 12 fireballs in a straight line across the sky.

It was “very unusual to see it in multiple countries,” David Moore of Astronomy Ireland said

“I've never seen one fragmented like that and streaked across sky,” he said. The fireball exploded into fragments, passed below the plough and all the way to the horizon.

Mr Moore appealed for witnesses to submit a fireball report to the Astronomy Ireland website. “This will help us to triangulate the path,” he said.

Irish emergency services received many calls about the incident on Friday. The Irish coast guard had reports from the north coast right down the east coast.

Video footage of the incident has been posted on YouTube over the weekend.

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