Popular Astronomy

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Wed, 23 Nov 2016 - Bright Fireball @ 17:15 GMT on Wed Nov 23rd


This fireball has been reported by many observers, including Camille Metcalfe (Alnwick, Northumberland), Maggie Daly (Branston, Lincs), Ian Bateman (Newton Aycliffe, Co Durham), Adrian Mitton (Addingham, West Yorks), Steve Thackeray (Bailrigg, Lancs), James Soper (Galway), Paul Delaney (Limerick), John Paul Breslin (Glasgow), Nick Quinn (Dollar, Scotland), Laura Murphy   (Ardrossan, Scotland),   Mary Gillen (Drumgor, N Ireland) and Stuart Atkinson (Kendal, Cumbria).

Visual descriptions

Camille saw the fireball descending in her north western sky. She reports that it was initially orange in colour but turned more yellow/white as it got brighter and that it broke up into several pieces. Maggie also described the fireball as being orange in colour and reports the fireball to have started high in the southern sky and then descended down into the northern sky. From Ian's location, the fireball started in the south western sky and became lower in the sky as it headed towards the north western sky, He described it as being yellow in colour and fragmenting into three pieces. Adrian's view was restricted as he was in a car, but he saw it start in his western sky and move towards the north western sky. Paul was also driving at the time and commented "One fragment broke off in the one second that I saw it".  Stuart described it as "slow, flaring, moving south to west". Mary described its terminal flare in this way "It got even brighter than it was for a split second, lighting up the whole sky and then was gone".

Many other reports have been received by the IMO (see ) and reported to Armagh observatory from locations across Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the north of England. Cloudy skies most likely restricted its visibility from locations further south.

The fireball was also described in this article on the Sunday Post website.

Twitter mentions

Many reports also appeared on Twitter. Being brief and mostly from people with little knowledge of the night sky, these contain little information of use in determining its trajectory, but do give an insight into its geographical visibility and how people respond to such events:

"Did anyone else see a #meteor fly over Burnley a moment ago?"

"Did anyone else see that meteor/asteroid looking thing in #Doncaster about 5 mins ago?"

"Just seen a spectacular #meteor heading northwards this evening over #Anglesey"

"Very strange object in the Glasgow sky about 45 mins ago ... Meteor ???"

"Meteor just seen over Belfast"

"Just seen a pretty big shooting star coming down. Was looking west from prestonpans over arthurs seat"

"Pretty sure I've just seen a meteor in the sky over Liverpool. It seemed really close as well"

"Did you see a #meteor in the last few minutes?. We're hearing about several sightings including over Loch Ness"

Lack of images

Surprisingly, no reports of images or videos have come to light so far. The UKMON network reports that none of their video cameras recorded it. Reports so far from the NEMETODE network show that some of their video cameras were clouded out whereas others hadn't started recording by the time that the fireball appeared. The all-sky cameras of the Univ of Herts located at Bayfordbury and Hemel were both clouded out.

The only probable image of the fireball seems to be that in a dashboard video camera, included in the Sunday Post article mentioned earlier.

An image of a fireball captured from Lochearnhead was tweeted by some users who described as being an image of this fireball. However, a check of the imager's Twitter account showed that although the fireball was from Nov 23rd, he clearly states that the image was from 3am that morning (i.e. not 5.15pm). It was therefore of a different fireball.

What was its ground track?

Nearly all witnesses saw the fireball in the western half of their sky and hence were to the eastern side of its ground track. Only a few saw it in their eastern sky and these witnesses were located in the west of Ireland. Notably, a witness in Kilkenny saw it in the NNE, a witness from Limerick saw it in the NE and a witness in Galway saw it in the ENE.

It seems most likely that the fireball started over central Ireland, possibly 30-40km WNW of Dublin. It then headed in a northerly direction, crossing the middle of Northern Ireland - witnesses in Belfast, Co Antrim and Co Down saw it to the west ; witnesses in Derry, Strabane and Enniskillen saw it in the east. It then appears to have travelled just beyond the north coast of Ireland. Thus, had any part of it survived to come down as a meteorite, that would have landed in the sea.


Added by: Tracie Heywood