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A brilliant fireball of magnitude at least –8 to –10 was reported to us from five locations in England south of Derbyshire on 2006 November 1. Timing estimates suggested it probably occurred between 17:30–17:45 UT that evening, while the sky was still twilit after sunset. The lucky viewers included: Garry Harwood (London), Bill Jolly (Suffolk), Dave Lewis (Bristol), David Sumner (West Sussex) and Matthew White (Derbyshire).
Most of these sightings suggested the meteor was following a track between roughly NE–SW to E–W, and may have passed high above the Berkshire region or nearby. David Sumner and Garry Harwood reported hearing a sonic boom some minutes later, apparently from the general end direction, while Garry mentioned hearing a distinct buzzing sound simultaneously with the meteor's flight too, a very rare, but not unexpected, phenomenon with such a brilliant event (for more information on these sounds, see the Global Electronic Fireball Survey.
Although the available information could not be fitted comfortably to a single solution, it seems possible the fireball extinguished at about 30 km altitude above the Fleet-Camberley area, near the Hants-Surrey-Berks border, as a best-estimate.
Ordinarily, such an uncertain possible flight path would not warrant a special report of this kind, but for one fortunate thing: Garry Harwood is an artist. He prepared a series of annotated sketches immediately after the event, and was later able to construct the painting shown here. The original was done in oils on canvas, and is 16 x 12 inches (about 40 x 30 cm) in size.
Garry Harwood - November 1-2 Fireball
© Garry Harwood, 2006
Garry also kindly provided the following comments about his painting:
More about Garry, with some examples of his work (including other astronomical paintings), can be found at Available Light Studios.
Anyone lucky enough to witness a fireball (defined as any meteor which reaches at least magnitude -3 or brighter) from the British Isles or nearby is invited to submit a full report to the SPA Meteor Section. The most useful information to send, and where to, can be found via the Fireball Observing page of this website.
Alastair McBeath, SPA Meteor Section Director
Address in Popular Astronomy
Added by: Robin Scagell