There have been large numbers of reports of a spectacular fireball that crossed the UK at around 17:33 UT on New Year’s Eve.
Hundreds of reports were submitted to the IMO. These can be viewed via this IMO link (this link and the whole imo.net website did become inaccessible for quite a while around 8pm – a sign of the stress being put on the site by the huge number of reports being received).
As can be seen from the accompanying map, which has been extracted from the above link, most witnesses were on the eastern side of the country. People further west were less fortunate, with William Stewart (Cheshire), Tracie Heywood (Staffordshire) and Bill Ward and David Anderson (both in SW Scotland) all reporting overcast skies.
Alan Pounder (North Yorkshire) saw the fireball cross his northern sky, starting in the NNE and ending in the NNW. He reported it having a duration of 3-4 seconds and leaving a persistent train with a path length of about 90 degrees and a duration of 5 seconds, describing the fireball in this way: “Glowing, green/red colours, breaking up into small bright objects, train faded out, no twisting or other distortion“. No terminal flare was seen, instead he noted it “Breaking up along train into smaller objects which faded out close to line of train, fragmentation mainly white not showing colours of train. No terminal break up, just fading out “.
Bart Fischer (Edinburgh) saw the fireball crossing the sky from east to west and reported its colours as yellow and green. He described the fireball in this way “I’ve noticed it at around 5:35pm as early as it started burning entering the atmosphere from the east (I was watching the moon at the time it looked like an airplane for a few seconds, barely moving light heading in my direction first appeared on the bottom-right from the moon). The spot was brighter than the current large moon but there was no large flash. It was burning steadily for 5-10 second then it broke up into at least 4 large pieces each with it’s own trail, again no flash here. All disappeared within further 5 seconds heading west toward Glasgow.”
Matthew Firth (South Yorkshire) saw the fireball travelling from the NE to the NW , estimated its duration as being between 5 and 10 seconds and described it as being light green in colour.
Jennifer Waples (Great Brickhill, Bucks) also saw the fireball crossing her northern sky, describing the fireball as being green in colour and having a duration of 3-4 seconds.
Hamish Milne (Dundee) saw the fireball crossing his southern sky from left to right and described it as being light green in colour, having a duration of 3-4 seconds and fragmenting near the end.
Donald Isles (Tayside) and two colleagues saw the fireball through a doubled glazed window as it travelled from the ESE to the SSW, recording its colours as green and yellow and adding “Split in two as it disappeared. Abrupt ending“.
Robert Shanks (Gilberdyke, East Yorkshire) witnessed the fireball through a window, estimated its duration to be 3-4 seconds, described its colours as light green and white and added “Fireball reached full brightness after about 3 seconds then dimmed to nothing in about 0.5 second“. He also observed it fragmenting “What was left appeared light green, continued forward separated into 2 pieces, one in front of the other, which both appeared to curve downwards before disappearing“.
C J Teasdale (Tyneside) saw the fireball descending downwards towards the western sky and fragmenting, reporting its colours as “green, light green, light yellow”
“T G” (Amesbury, Wiltshire) saw the fireball travelling from the NE to the NW, being green in colour “Quite a bright green, like a burning trail” , having a duration of 3-4 seconds and leaving a train that persisted for about 3 seconds.
It is worth noting that although there were some claims that the fireball lasted for as long as 20 seconds, most witness reports quote a somewhat shorter duration.
Images and Video clips
Jim Rowe (East Barnet) of the NEMETODEnetwork reports having captured a video clip of the event low in his northern sky. This ties down the time of the event to 17:33:21 UT (with a duration of a few seconds).
Another NEMETODE member Ray Taylor (Skirlaugh, East Yorkshire) also captured a video clip of part of the fireball’s path through a cloud gap near the edge of his NE facing camera. The accompanying still image has been extracted by Ray.
Other NEMETODE members seem to have had overcast skies. The fireball was probably too far north to be imaged by most cameras in the UKMON network.
Several dashcam videos showing the fireball have also been posted on-line. Some of these can be viewed via the link given at the start of this report. These show a variety of timestamps, but this spread will be due to the dashcam clocks not being set accurately. The observers in the NEMETODE and UKMON networks in contrast take great care to ensure that their PC clocks are always accurate.
Unfortunately, as sadly often seems to be the case nowadays, some people did download old fireball images and then tried to pass them off on-line as their images of the current fireball.
The IMO have published an initial report https://www.imo.net/last-bright-fireball-of-year-2017-over-the-uk/ which includes some of the dashcam videos. This preliminary analysis indicates that the fireball started at an altitude of around 80km over the North Sea near Hartlepool and ended at an altitude of around 50km roughly midway between Carlisle and Penrith. More detailed analyses should tie down the trajectory more precisely, especially if better images or videos become available.
Not submitted your report yet?
If you saw the fireball but haven’t submitted your report yet, please do so via this easy to use fireball report form http://spa.imo.net/
Not surprisingly, there were many mentions of this event on Twitter. In general, these only give very limited information about the sky path of the fireball but do illustrate how ot was seen over a very large part of the UK. They also give an insight into how members of the general public react to seeing fireballs in the sky.
Here are some examples:
“Just saw a large fireball heading north over uk (ne from Milton Keynes). Large green fireball”
“I’ve just seen a meteor go over our house, bright, shining, colourful and a lifetime first (and probably last)”
“Just seen a huge meteor to the south from Aberdeenshire heading west. Bright green and orange”
“#Meteor #asteroid #comet over the uk at 5.30. It looked awesome. #Nuneaton”
“Wow – very bright, green meteor/fireball streaking east to west over Ely, Cambs – pretty flat traj”
“Saw what looked like meteor from Thame,Oxon 17:30ish. About 20deg above north horizon, east to west”
“I’m sat fishing outside of Bedford and about 5.30 a fireball of some kind came across the sky from the south west, it was amazing”
“Did anyone else just see a fantastic fireball across the skies of northern England? About 5:30pm. Brilliant icy blue thing, went all the way from east to west”
“Just seen a fireball streak across the sky and breakup into 3 pieces. This has to be an omen of better things to come in 2018 doesn’t it?”
“Hope we’re not heading into Day of the Triffids territory ????“