2011 Geminids

Here is Alastair McBeath’s analysis of the 2011 Geminids:

Today it’s the Geminids’ turn for an update on how they performed last December. Although the shower’s maximum has been reliably strong for many years, with a peak likely to last for almost a day at fairly similar ZHRs, the bright Moon and some typically dismal northern winter weather globally meant observers almost everywhere struggled to see much of the shower’s best in 2011. However, it has been possible to compile the radio meteor analysis now, which when combined with data from other sources and observing techniques, gives a modest, if incomplete, overview of the near-peak activity.

More visual results were received by the SPA for the Geminids than for most of the other Moon-affected showers during late 2011, albeit many were quite casually made and reported, owing to poor skies across Britain and elsewhere. Even the IMO’s “live” online preliminary visual results were quite patchy, indicating a probable main maximum time near 15h UT on December 14. It has remained unclear how accurate the estimated strongest ZHR of 198 ± 13 then really was, since it is possible the value was inflated thanks to the bright sky. Usually, the ZHR would be around 120-130 or so. The timing fell well within the predicted maximum range based on long-term IMO visual studies, expected to persist from roughly 01h-22h UT on December 14.

Intriguingly, the IMO data also hinted at a possible secondary maximum outside this predicted peak period, around 02h-03h UT on December 15, with ZHRs estimated at ~148 ± 13. Casual reports, and comments based on fireball camera observations in America from Bill Cooke (NASA’s Meteoroids Environment Officer; helpfully forwarded by Rich Taibi), indicated that the Geminids overall appeared to have been significantly brighter on December 14-15 than 13-14. This was not unexpected, as previous studies going back to the 1960s have found mass-sorting of particles to be present within the Geminid meteoroid stream, meaning brighter shower meteors tend to happen predominantly somewhat after the visual peak.

The IMO’s video results for the Geminids (published in “WGN”, 40:2 for 2012 April, pp. 69-75, especially pp. 69-70) found only a single, noticeably sharp, maximum at 03:15 ± 15 minutes UT on December 14. As most of the video results were obtained from Europe, there were large gaps in these as well as the visual data, so uncertainties have remained regarding these seemingly discrepant peak timings. It is worth remembering that many video meteor cameras are quite infra-red sensitive, so can detect a range of meteors from the visual down into the sub-visual. Possibly, the video results indicated something of the “fainter meteors” peak earlier in the likely maximum interval.

Using the available radio meteor data from North America and Europe, the SPA’s radio analysis found most systems sufficiently active and recording accurately favoured the better Geminid rates as having happened on December 13-14, between approximately 23h-09h UT. Although it is difficult to be certain, it seems plausible there were two stronger phases within this time, from about 23h-01h and 03h-05h UT, the latter perhaps very marginally the better-detected. European radio data collected during the period the Geminid radiant was regrettably undetectable for most of the operational North American observers, also indicated a distinct secondary peak during the interval from ~23h-01h UT on December 14-15 (remembering that the radio meteor results are typically given only in one-hour long data-bins). This included peaks in the few longer-duration echo-count results presented, which would tally with the generally brighter Geminids reported visually on the latter night, assuming as we usually do that longer-duration radio echoes equate with brighter meteors. These factors may explain why the IMO visual results favoured a Geminid maximum on December 14-15, while the video data preferred the previous night. As always when we have too little data to work with, we end up with more questions than proper answers!

A list of observers whose data contributed to this report can be found at : forum.popastro.com/viewtopic.php

Many and grateful thanks go to everyone for your results and comments on the Geminids.
Alastair McBeath,
Assistant Meteor Director, Society for Popular Astronomy

2011 Leonids

Here is Alastair McBeath’s analysis of the 2011 Leonids:

With the potential for four Leonid maxima in 2011 scattered across November 16 to 18 inclusive, one of which might have produced activity in the low hundreds, albeit all with a problematically bright waning Moon, it was disappointing that weather conditions for SPA watchers globally seemed to have been unusually poor. Even visual reports to the IMO’s online data page for the shower were unhelpfully thin on the ground, with just four datapoints available between ~18h UT on November 14 through to ~00:30 UT on the 20th. At least for once, it wasn’t just Britain’s weather at fault!

These IMO results suggested merely a single Leonid peak had happened, on November 17-18, when ZHRs reached 22 ± 3. Huge gaps in the data meant this result was especially tentative however, and it would have been very easy for any short-lived outburst, no matter how strong, to have passed entirely unseen. IMO video observations proved less helpful too than might have been hoped (presented in “WGN”, 40:1 for 2012 February, on pages 48-52, especially p. 49), where only a single combined datapoint was determined for each night, based largely on European results. They indicated a single peak on November 18-19, apparently with activity still quite good by the following night. Again though, the broad timescale meant large breaks between these reports.

Looking to the radio meteor results collected by the SPA, even these gave incomplete coverage, since with observers based primarily in central-western Europe and western North America, the Leonid radiant was effectively unobservable, because of being below the horizon for all locations, from about 20h-21h until 00h-01h UT daily, a period into which fell three of the four predicted maximum timings. To hunt for what the data did show, a detailed hour-by-hour examination was made of the radio information available from November 16 to 20, concentrating on when the Leonid radiant was observable from each site. No distinct brief maxima were found on any of these dates, but activity probably due to the Leonids seemed to have been somewhat stronger than normal on November 17, between roughly 02h-13h UT, and was at its strongest on November 19 from about 01h-14h UT. (Remembering that these intervals do not show true peaks, but indicate instead the better-detectable daily period for radio Leonid meteors from the two main geographic regions represented.)

Overall, this radio meteor pattern supported the findings of the IMO video observers much better than those from the visual reports, and implied the better shower activity could have occurred on November 18-19, significantly later than any of the advance predictions had anticipated. In all cases, shower rates were apparently fairly unremarkable, which would in turn infer quite typical Leonid ZHRs had taken place, probably of the order of 15-20 or so at best, much as the visual data found. Any further results from elsewhere would be welcomed still to try to plug the gaps and see if anything unusual did happen in time to any of the late-evening-UT peak predictions.

A full list of observers whose observations were used in this analysis can be found at forum.popastro.com/viewtopic.php

2011 Orionids

Here is Alastair McBeath’s analysis of the 2011 Orionids :

The latest IMO video meteor analysis of the shower in 2011 (given as part of the October review in the February 2012 issue of the journal “WGN”, 40:1, pp. 41-47, especially pp. 43 & 46) indicated the video peak was observed on the European night of October 23-24, although activity then was only marginally better than on several previous nights, beginning around October 20-21. This sort of protracted, if variable, maximum is relatively common for the Orionids, albeit the stronger peak happening as late as October 23-24 is unusual. The Organization’s preliminary visual data, now updated but still available online at the address given in my October 24 posting above, suggested shower ZHRs were averaging roughly 25 ± 5 between October 20-21 and 23-24, coincident with the video findings, although the marginally highest ZHR, circa 33 ± 3 had occurred on October 21-22. This was based on relatively few reports, however.

Scarcely any UK observers had much luck in seeing the shower, and although valuable support came from the Section’s overseas contributors, notably in North America and Germany, there was too little data overall to confirm or improve upon the IMO’s visual findings. Unhappily, the radio meteor observers, who don’t have to worry about cloudy skies, struggled at times with interference across the expected best from the Orionids, which created some rather patchy results at times. Even so, it’s been possible to carry out a reasonably useful analysis of such radio data as was collected by the SPA. As quite often happens with this shower, the rise and fall from the radio maximum was relatively gradual, though the fall seemed more marked than the risen this time. Orionid activity was apparently present at fairly similar levels on October 21-22, 22-23 and 24-25, with a curious drop almost to the pre-peak level on October 23-24. Most datasets seemed to favour October 24-25 as producing the strongest response. However, as with both the IMO video and visual reports, the difference to the other better nights was small.

Overall, a peak in Orionid activity from October 20-21 to 24-25 can be suggested from all this. The difference in when the somewhat higher activity was detected by the visual, video and radio results might be due to a degree of mass-sorting within the stream, since video is able to detect meteors somewhat fainter than visual observers can achieve, and radio meteors fainter still. Such a suggestion could only be very tentative though, given the uncertainties in the individual sets of results, and especially so given the odd drop in radio rates on October 23-24. All three datasets indicated Orionid activity near the maximum was probably close to the expected value, at least. 

A list of observers whose results contributed to the SPA’s Orionid files were as follows, including reports sent in directly, posted here or on the Orionids topic of the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum can be found at : forum.popastro.com/viewtopic.php

2011 Draconids

Much later than I’d originally intended while I was still SPA Meteor Director, I’m now starting to catch-up with the outstanding meteor shower analyses from late 2011, hopefully in roughly chronological order!

A recent IMO video analysis of the 2011 Draconids (see their journal “WGN”, 40:1, 2012 February, pp. 41-47 for details) essentially confirmed the timing and strength of the moonlit peak already found in the preliminary IMO visual online assessment of the shower’s outburst, where a maximum estimated ZHR of around 300 was found at 20:12 UT on October 8-9, give or take a minute or two. The activity was at or above half this peak level from circa 19:20-20:40 UT. Fresh video information included a radiant derivation at RA 17h29m, Dec +56°, each value ± 1.3° (that is, ± 5.2m in RA), the meteors having an average atmospheric-entry velocity of about 21 ± 0.5 km/sec. This compared very favourably with the standard values usually adopted for the shower of RA 17h28m, Dec +54°, velocity 20 km/sec.
Although too little visual data was received by the SPA to carry out an analysis comparable to the IMO’s, it has now been possible to perform an analysis of the radio results the Meteor Section collected, which is discussed here. Most of the radio meteor observers provided data in hour-long segments only, which showed that probable Draconid activity had been present from about 14h UT on October 8 through until 02h UT on October 9, at least at a level liable to be readily detected visually or by video, with a distinct peak signature in the hour beginning at 20:00 UT. This pattern was quite closely comparable to that found in the IMO visual results (albeit with at least hourly datapoints available only between 14:30-23:55 UT on October 8; the IMO video information, where most observers were based in Europe, ran near-continuously from just 17:10 to 23:35). It also confirmed that despite a variety of predicted maximum timings in advance for the UT evening hours, only one clear peak had happened.

Four radio observers provided counts of meteor echoes in shorter periods across the Draconid peak as well, lasting between 5-10 minutes, which allowed a more detailed examination of activity in the hours around the maximum. A direct comparison between the IMO’s visual and the SPA radio results showed again a closely similar pattern, with seemingly even many of the minor fluctuations between individual datapoints found in both sets. The radio information also found activity at or above half the maximum flux had been present from 19:20 to 20:45 UT or so, virtually identical to what the video results showed.

This was naturally a very pleasing outcome, allowing further confirmation of what the earlier analyses had indicated.

In Britain, only a few observers in southern England and the Channel Islands seemed to have had any luck in seeing something of the Draconid outburst, and then often far less than they might have hoped. Elsewhere in mainland Europe, conditions were thankfully often much better.

A full list of observers whose data were included in this analysis can be found on the SPA Forum at  forum.popastro.com/viewtopic.php

Alastair McBeath,

Assistant Meteor Director, Society for Popular Astronomy

2012 June 2

2011 Perseids

(Report copied from SPA Forum)
The initially gloomy picture of how observing the shower’s moonlit peak went from Britain has changed little. In general, the better night close to the peak was August 14-15, if chiefly for a few lucky places in southern Britain. Some people spotted the occasional Perseid in cloud-gaps in southeast England on August 13-14 as well, but elsewhere, solid overcast was the norm. Fortunes were mixed too for the SPA Meteor Section’s overseas contributors, with many fewer people able to observe near the shower’s maximum than might have been hoped. There was some better coverage of the early Perseid activity in late July and early August, which nicely confirmed the typical slow rise of shower rates during that time. 
Observers who contributed either directly or through the SPA and UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forums – the latter at: 
included (visual reports only, unless noted): "Bluebreezer54" (England), "Cliff" (England), Mike Feist (England), Len Entwisle (England; via September’s "The Astronomer", TA, courtesy of Meteor Editor Tony Markham; see: http://www.theastronomer.org ), Valentin Grigore (Romania), "GroovySciFiChick" (England), Bill Haddon (California, USA), Heart of England AS (England; in September’s TA), Alan Heath (England; radio), "Leo S" (England), Tony Markham (England; also in August’s TA), John Mason (Wales), "scrapemedic" (England) and "waspy" (England). North American Meteor Network contributors, data kindly forwarded by Rich Taibi, included: John Drummond (New Zealand), George Gliba (West Virginia, USA), Paul Jones (Florida, USA), Robert Lunsford (California, USA), Bruce McCurdy (Alberta, Canada), Pierre Martin (Ontario, Canada), Paul Martsching (Iowa, USA) and Wesley Stone (Oregon, USA). 
Radio results were taken from Radio Meteor Observation Bulletin (RMOB) 217 for August 2011, provided by Editor Chris Steyaert – see http://www.rmob.org . Observers active across the expected Perseid peak were: Enric Algeciras (Spain), Mike Boschat (Nova Scotia, Canada), Jeff Brower (British Columbia, Canada), Willy Camps (Belgium), Johan Coussens (Belgium), Gaspard De Wilde (Belgium), Franky Dubois (Belgium), Karl-Heinz Gansel (Germany), Peter Knol (Netherlands), Mike Otte (Illinois, USA), Steve Roush (Arizona, USA), Andy Smith (England), Chris Steyaert (Belgium), Dave Swan (England) and Felix Verbelen (Belgium)
With too little data available to carry out a useful analysis visually, notes here are solely from the IMO’s "live" results page. Overall, Perseid activity seemed somewhat disappointing this year by modern standards, with what would have been a vintage return during much of the 1970s, peak ZHRs around 50-60 on August 12-13. It’s unclear what effect the Moon may have had on these values, perhaps hiding many of the fainter meteors that could have raised the activity level substantially, though this seems a reasonable ball-park figure for the shower’s likely best from the results available. 
The Section’s radio analysis identified a clear peak on August 12-13, although with most of the viable datasets available just from Europe, the maximum timing could be only tentatively suggested as probably between roughly 01h-04h UT on August 13th, especially around 04h. A potential secondary resurgence to a somewhat lesser level was apparent around 07h-08h UT, but caution is needed here, because both the 03h-04h and 07h-08h intervals were close to the shower’s best-observable times for radio systems in Europe, as well as lying either side of the diurnal ~06h sporadic activity peak, which also distorts the radio activity graphs around this time of day. Overall though, a general confirmation of the visual data was implied, if perhaps the relative strength of the radio maximum could also have indicated somewhat better rates than the visual observers found. In turn, that may have been due to better numbers of faint meteors in the stream’s peak. A much stronger "real" return could not be supported by the radio data even so. 
As always, my most grateful thanks, and those of the Section go to all our contributing observers and correspondents for their efforts during this year’s Perseids, regardless of their level of success! 
Alastair McBeath

Fireball Reports 2011 January to June

The following summary has been compiled from Alastair McBeath’s posts on the SPA Forum:

* January 8-9, 07:46 UT, a magnitude -4/-5 or so possible late Quadrantid, seen in morning twilight from Dumfries & Galloway. 
* January 18-19, around 18:00 UT, a fireball-class event spotted from Hampshire. 
* January 24-25, between 19:47 and 19:50 UT, probably peaking at about magnitude -8, with two reports made from Lanarkshire and Edinburgh. It’s not completely certain both sightings were of this meteor, however. 
* February 16-17, at 23:35 UT, a fragmenting, Moon-bright fireball of perhaps magnitudes -10/-12, seen from Leicestershire. 
* February 23-24, around 23:50 UT, a fireball-class event observed from Suffolk. 
* February 24-25, around 18:10 UT, bright enough to be readily visible in the evening twilight sky from Ayrshire. 
* March 3-4, at 22:27 UT, a magnitude -3/-4 event that produced much fragmentation along its trajectory, seen from Hampshire. 
* March 4-5, around 22:50 UT, a fireball reaching magnitude -5 or so, that also fragmented, as observed from NE Lincolnshire. 
* March 7-8, between 22:08 and 22:10 UT, a magnitude -8 or brighter fireball was reported from three sites in the Midlands, Worcestershire and Hampshire. The Worcestershire witness noted it too threw-off some small fragments, like sparks. The initial report by the lucky Midlands observer is elsewhere on the Observing Forum: 
while the first report from the Hampshire witness is on the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum: 
Follow-up comments to the latter posting suggested there were numerous other sightings possibly of this meteor from Britain south of Manchester, though no useful details from any of these potential observers have been received by the SPA as yet if so. 
* April 3-4, at 23:26 UT, a bright meteor seen to the south from East Sussex, which produced some fragmentation. 
A possible second sighting, timed at about 23:30 UT, from "Collins88" in Hertfordshire is also reported on the same UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum topic.
These reports can be found on the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum, at: 
This also has an interesting link to a NASA webpage (see the posting by Dave Hancox, timed at 01:29 on April 4th) which commented on the relatively higher frequency of fireball sightings near the spring equinox. In fact, much of the February to April period actually enjoys such a statistical reputation, though a fireball sighting remains a rare event for any given witness. 
* April 3-4, at 23:56 UT brought a very bright meteor for a lucky witness in London, which may have been the same as a second fireball that "Collins88" reported as happening roughly ten minutes after the first one. It’s possible this may have been a separate meteor around 23:40 UT instead, however. 
* May 8-9, around 20:08 UT, a very bright meteor spotted nearly overhead, moving roughly southwards from Surrey. 
* May 20-21, at 23:47 UT, saw at least one notably bright meteor for a lucky witness in Middlesex (see the posting by "scrapemedic" from May 21 on the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum at: 
Images were secured of an object at this time too by two of the Hertfordshire University’s all-sky cameras, at
Unfortunately, the Hemel Hempstead photo suggested the object there was in the mid western/southwestern sky, while that from Bayfordbury suggested the imaged object there had been high up to the east/northeast. Given that the Bayfordbury camera is situated east of Hemel’s this would have made it impossible for both to have been shots of the same meteor. 
* June 1-2, at 20:50 UT, a yellow, fireball-class meteor with a sparkling train, seen from Kent. 
* June 3-4, probably around 21:13 UT, a slow, magnitude -6 event which broke in two, spotted from County Durham. 
* Later on June 3-4, around 22:45 UT, a fragmenting, magnitude -10 or so event was report by two lucky witnesses on the Cumbria-Scottish border. Unfortunately, both were made from the same site, so no triangulation to the trail could be attempted. However, from the details provided, and assuming typical meteoric heights for the object, it may have flown on a roughly northwest to southeast trajectory high above NE England, perhaps ending over the adjoining North Sea. One of the reports can be found on the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum at: 
* June 25-26 brought a fireball-class meteor sighting from Gwynedd, timed at 23:30 UT. 
* June 28-29, circa 23:25 UT, produced a bright event which left a notable persistent train for two people at the same place in Cornwall. 
* June 30-31, 23:41:35 UT, saw a very bright, fragmenting fireball observed visually from South and East Yorkshire, which was also imaged on video from Norfolk. Neither visual witness could give enough positional details to attempt to triangulate to the meteor’s precise atmospheric flight-path with the video data. However, it seemed likely the meteor was heading somewhere between roughly southwest-northeast and south-north, probably over the southern North Sea or possibly over parts of SE England and/or East Anglia. The South Yorkshire sighting notes can be found on the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum at: 

International Meteor Conference 2010 September 16-19

Held in Armagh, Northern Ireland,

A Report for the SPA Meteor Section

This meeting of amateur and professional meteoricists from 24 countries was organised by Armagh Observatory. It was the first-ever International Meteor Conference (IMC) in the UK, and also the first time that I’d attended one. The number of attendees was 127 (easily surpassing the previous record of 94). The age distribution of attendees was better than that that typically seen at meetings of UK astronomy groups too. I would, however, have liked to have seen more attendees from the British mainland.

With a large number of people wishing to speak, each speaker was restricted to 15 minutes (including set up and questions). This had the advantage of ensuring presentations were concise and to the point. All presentations were given in English (I wonder how many British people would be able to give a presentation and answer questions in a foreign language?). Sessions were devoted to optical work, the meteoroid environment, visual observations, radio work, fireballs & ablation, astrometry & trajectories, cultural topics and meteor odds & ends. In addition, there were also Saturday afternoon excursions to Armagh Observatory (including taking part in the Human Orrery) and to the Navan Centre (where the residents of the iron-age dwelling welcomed the “wise people who follow the stars”), plus social sessions in the evenings. The participants enjoyed the meteor song and solar system Irish dance performed by local children during a coffee break too!

Presentations included:

  • Bill Cooke (NASA) describing how amateur observations are used to calibrate meteoroid flux predictions, covering particle sizes ranging from those capable of penetrating spacesuits up to those with potential to cause a loss of the Space Shuttle. He highlighted how the Landsat-5 satellite was sent tumbling on 2009 August 13 by an event which coincided with that year’s third Perseid peak, although, somewhat embarrassingly, none of the published Perseid predictions for 2009 had included the third peak.
  • Pete Gural giving an overview of the NASA-funded California All-sky Meteor Surveillance (CAMS) system that is being developed to investigate the belief that 85% of the zodiacal cloud is derived from now defunct comets.
  • Praksh Atreya giving an overview of the French Meteor Network (PODET-NET).
  • Gerhard Drolshagen reporting on ESA’s investigations relating to meteoroid populations, ranging from infra-red (IR) studies of the zodiacal light, through to lunar crater sizes and, more directly, through studies of impact crater sizes in the Hubble Space Telescope solar arrays returned by NASA.
  • Detlef Koschny describing the development of the Virtual Meteor Observatory – a database of 30 000 video-recorded meteors – and illustrated how this has provided improved statistics on shower meteor start heights.
  • Jürgen Rendtel reporting the results of an analysis of more than ten years of video-recorded meteors for the period August 23-October 29. This has resulted in revisions to the dates of maxima and radiant locations for several of the minor showers active during this period.
  • Abedin Abedin explaining how numerical modelling had been used to follow the fragments of Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (which showed 5 fragments in 1995 and more than 70 fragments in 2006) back in time.
  • Jérémie Vaubaillon reporting that various analyses for the 2011 Draconids indicated peak activity will occur (sometime) between 19h and 21h UT on October 8th, favouring observers at European longitudes. The peak ZHR is likely to be measured in the hundreds, but is unlikely to reach storm level.
  • Megan Argo describing a low-cost public outreach activity started at Jodrell Bank in late 2006 to record meteors using the forward-scatter technique from a transmitter in Spain … and how the digital switchover has recently necessitated a switch to another transmitter.
  • Jean-Louis Rault summarising the various types of meteor echoes (“Epsilons, Cs, Corkscrews and Co”) detected at radio wavelengths by members of the Belgian VVS meteor observing group. He later combined many of these to produce a short “musical” composition during the traditional Saturday evening cultural session.
  • Casper ter Kuile giving a report on the expedition to Sudan to recover fragments from the break-up in the atmosphere of asteroid 2008TC3. Fortunately this had fallen in the north of Sudan rather than the less stable southern part of the country. Around 10kg of material (more than 250 pieces) has been recovered to date.
  • Felix Bettonvil suggesting a design for an ‘optimal’ amateur all-sky camera, costing less than 1000 Euros and balancing the needs of astrometry, photometry & velocity determination.
  • Anna Kartashova outlining how (using some rather complex equations!) to derive celestial coordinates of meteor events registered by TV systems.
  • Eliska Anna Kubickova reporting the results of attempts to use “computer vision” to search for meteors in images. Although there were some cases of spurious identification, around 80% of meteors were successfully detected.
  • David Cullen outlining a proposed mission to generate hypervelocity meteoroids by sending particles of known mass and composition on a lunar free return trajectory – this could be one component of an ESA medium-sized mission opportunity.
  • Damir Segon describing how astrometry often seems to overestimate the speed of very bright meteors, leading to a larger than expected scatter in calculated semi-major axes. Inspection of individual video frames often shows asymmetry in the heads of such meteors, which may be partly due to effects within the optical system.
  • David Asher & John McFarland giving an overview of the work of E J Öpik. Öpik had worked from Arizona in the 1930s to record large numbers of meteor images, which he subsequently analysed when working at Armagh in order to calculate their orbits.
  • Mike Simms giving an overview of the three 20th century Irish meteorite falls at Crumlin (1902), Bovedy (1969) and Leighlinbridge (1999). Analyses indicated that all three meteorites were originally part of planetoids that had been large enough for melting and differentiation to have occurred. Compositions suggested the Bovedy meteorite was derived from near-surface material, whereas the other two were from deeper levels.
  • Apostolos Christou describing the Armagh Observatory meteor cameras. This system has been in operation for 5 years from sites at Armagh and Bangor (NI). In 16 250 hours of operation (averaging 3 hours usable sky per night), this has recorded 6309 single station meteors and 1281 double station meteors of which 53 were fireballs of magnitude –4 or brighter, 25 of which were associated with meteor showers.
  • Sylvain Bouley outlining the development of an international network to monitor lunar meteoroid impacts between last quarter and first quarter lunar phases. Flashes recorded to date have been in the magnitude range +3 to +10 – the latter limit is surprising since the equipment used is capable of detecting fainter flashes.
  • Attendees from Venezuela, India and Nepal describing their attempts to encourage meteor observing in their respective countries.
  • Nagatoshi Nogami providing a translation of a meteorite poem from ancient China.
  • Rainer Arlt suggesting possible areas for future work, including monitoring for meteors in the 8-10 micron IR window and investigating radio radiation from meteors. There is also a desire to encourage more meteor observing from Africa.
  • Mark Gyssens giving an overview of the IMO membership and finances. Although there was the inevitable dip after the Leonid storm years, membership has since increased from 192 in 2005 to 244 in 2009, and is now 261. The IMO is now offering an electronic-only subscription. Members who choose to receive WGN electronically benefit from a 5 Euro reduction in their subscription.

In summary, I would say that I very much enjoyed the meeting. It was a great opportunity to meet many people who I had previously only known by name. I would recommend future IMC meetings to anyone who is able to attend.

Tony Markham, SPA Meteor Section Assistant Director

Tony Markham is a long-time SPA member and contributor to the work of the Meteor Section. He became an Assistant Director to the Meteor Section in the early autumn of 2010. He also formerly directed the SPA’s Variable Star Section

Many of the IMC presentations are available online via the special IMC 2010 website. Photos of the event and other notes are also available via the IMC 2010 homepage.

Fireball Sightings 2010 Part 2

Observations of the December 8-9 fireball arrived from 76 places across the country, as demonstrated by the accompanying sketch map, showing most of mainland Britain. The red dots indicate sites from where reports were received, though sometimes one dot may represent several observers too close together to show separately at this scale. The red arrow gives the more probable best-estimated projected surface track for the fireball, referred to below as the “centre line”, while the shaded red oval surrounding it is the area within which the meteor most likely occurred, to give an impression of the errors involved in determining the centre line. As the data available did not all confirm a single pattern for where the meteor may have been, the following discussion relies on the region and path which gave the higher probabilities only. The most certain aspect is that the fireball had a generally east to west trending trajectory above northern England. Its start point most probably occurred above County Durham, North Yorkshire, the East Riding, or the North Sea offshore of there, or perhaps parts of the adjacent English counties. The centre line looked to have begun at around 105 km altitude just inland of the North Yorkshire coast, about 7 km northwest of Scarborough (around 54.3° N, 0.4° W). The visible end was then plausibly over western North Yorkshire, western County Durham, northeast Lancashire or southeast Cumbria. Again using the centre line, an end point near 54.3° N, 2.0° W can be proposed, over northwest North Yorkshire, likely at around 60 km altitude above the eastern Pennines of upper Wensleydale near Aysgarth. Orders-of-magnitude for the errors on these positions from the centre line were at least +/-+/- 0.75° error on the geographic coordinates. Remembering the centre line was not definitive, and merely drew on what most of the reports would at least partly support, if we assume it to have been approximately correct, the projected surface path would have been ~105 km long. The fireball’s atmospheric trajectory would then have descended at about 23°-24° to the horizontal (or between about 13° to 30° dependent on the error margin), giving an atmospheric path length of ~115 km (or between 108-124 km). Estimates for the object’s visible flight ranged from 1 to 10 seconds, according to those who saw all or most of the event, but most (85%), including the few more experienced astronomical observers, favoured a duration of six seconds or less, the majority (68%) between 2 to 4 seconds, with an overall average for all the estimates of 3.9 seconds. Using this average with the atmospheric path lengths proposed above gave an atmospheric velocity for the meteor, not allowing for deceleration, of ~29 km/sec (error range ~28-32 km/sec), so meteorically slow. This was consistent with the relatively low start height, as slower meteors tend to ablate lower in the typical ~90-120 km altitude meteor zone. With the path direction and length, the meteor was likely a sporadic or possibly a late Northern Taurid (recent International Meteor Organization video results have indicated the Northern Taurids probably continue their activity until December 10, rather than ending in late November as had been long supposed). The path direction would have to have been much more northeast to southwest, the estimated velocity somewhat swifter, the path length greater and angled more shallowly to the horizontal for the event to have been a potential Geminid, given that that shower’s radiant had barely risen to the northeast when the meteor happened. Forty-three observers commented that the object broke apart, probably in a severe fragmentation event quite late in its apparition, producing around 4 to 8 main pieces and likely a lot of smaller sparkling droplets. Ten people suggested the meteor had left a short-lived persistent train for around two seconds, though three people saw no train at all (possibly because of different local observing conditions). Colours mentioned in the main fireball included white (34%), green (20%), orange and yellow (17% each), blue (11%) and red (1%), while those in the tail or the persistent train (not everyone was clear about the distinction) were orange (27%), blue (21%), yellow and white (16% each), green or red (10% each). Nobody in the open air reported hearing any sounds associated with the meteor. The lack of acoustics and the relatively high end height counted against the possibility of any meteorites having fallen from the event, and increased the difficulty of identifying the more likely fall zone. Any solid objects continuing along the centre line would have splashed-down into the Irish Sea between the Man and Cumbrian coasts, around 20 km offshore of Maughold Head, easternmost point on the Isle of Man. The minimum potential fall zone, making allowance for the suspected errors on the meteor’s estimated trajectory, but not for atmospheric effects, such as wind or drag, would have covered the Irish Sea (the largest single target) or the adjacent lands between the western end of the centre line over western England, north to southwest Scotland, west over the Isle of Man to eastern Northern Ireland and the extreme east of Eire, and south across north Wales. No fall reports from within this area were received, however. Some of the initial sightings can be found on the SPA’s Observing Forum and the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum topics for this event, with several briefer reports on a BBC News webpage , and from The Daily Telegraph online. Two video images have been located. One was on YouTube, taken from Knotty Ash near Liverpool inside a moving vehicle, but which showed probably a good part of the flight (and which was used to help refine the fireball’s potential occurrence zone here). The other was caught by an automated all-sky camera run by Cambridge University, where a flash of light from the meteor occurred on the dome in shot at 17:34:14, with the tree below lit up too from the reflected flare.

2010 December 08-09 17:36 +/- 5 min. Fireball Path
2010 December 08-09 17:36 +/- 5 min. Fireball Path

The sighting of the December 9-10 near-sunset fireball was posted on December 9 by “equaitca” on the SPA’s Observing Forum topic about the December 8-9 event.

Four visual sightings timed, sometimes quite imprecisely, between 20:35 and 21:00 UT later on December 9-10 indicated another multi-site fireball for southern England. The witnesses were in Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire, East Sussex and the London/Kent border, while the University of Hertfordshire’s Niton camera also recorded it (the image is available on the Observing Forum topic discussing this fireball). An attempt to triangulate the reports met with only limited success. However, the fireball was plausibly over the near-coastal Pas de Calais-Flanders area of northern France to northwest Belgium, between roughly Boulogne, France to Nieuwpoort, Belgium. It may have been partly over the Channel too, probably following a path angled somewhere between south-north to southwest-northeast. For these rough paths, start heights of around 105-85 km could be suggested, though the end heights came out quite low, around 45-35 km, which may indicate the computed path was somewhat in error, particularly around its end.

The ~22:00 UT fireball on December 14-15 was reported by “Charles” (posted 2010 Dec 16) on the Observing Forum’s “Geminids 2010” topic.

Alastair McBeath, SPA Meteor Section Director
Email: meteor@popastro.com
Address in Popular Astronomy

Fireball Sightings 2010

Fireball reports, especially those made from the British Isles and nearby areas, are always welcomed by the SPA Meteor Section. See the Making and Reporting Fireball Observations page on this website for details of what to record on seeing a fireball, where and how to report your data.

Below is a list of some of the fireballs reported to the Section from 2010. It mainly consists of those events seen away from the major meteor shower maxima (when fireballs are more common), unless the objects were not part of the meteor shower in question, or were particularly impressive. A “*” in the ‘Magnitude and Notes’ column indicates further details are given below the table.

An exciting development for Britain during the second half of 2010 was the creation of an all-sky fireball camera system by the University of Hertfordshire. The first camera was set up at the University’s observatory at Bayfordbury in Hertfordshire during 2009 October, and was run on a trial basis from 2009 November to 2010 May. A special report on its successes, including the early meteor captures, is available via the Herts University link above. Additional cameras were added at Hemel Hempstead (Herts) in 2010 July, and near Niton (Isle of Wight) and Cromer (Norfolk) in August. Several single-station Perseid fireballs were captured during 2010 August, and a two-station one on August 10-11, but the first major success for the system as a whole was the recording of a fireball from three stations on September 5-6. (A computer fault meant the data were lost from Hemel Hempstead, unfortunately including details on the meteor’s velocity and duration.) See also this General Chat Forum topic. We are happy to include details of this system here because it has helped confirm some of the fireballs reported to us by other, often visual, witnesses, and is referred to frequently in the notes on this page, often thanks to assistance from the system’s operator and analyst, David Campbell, to whom goes both gratitude, and hope for still more successes in future!

Date Time (UT) Magnitude and Notes Observed from
10/01/8-9 01:07 +/- 2m Very bright* Somerset
10/01/16-17 ~22:45 Bright; 3 reports* Wirral & Shropshire
10/01/23-24 19:40 Bright Co Antrim
10/01/24-25 20:51 -8; multiple reports; imaged* W & N France
10/01/26-27 22:37 -4 Hertfordshire
10/01/30-31 20:45 Bright Wiltshire
10/02/3-4 ~17:55-18:00 -6/-9?; multiple reports* Ireland & N Ireland
10/02/3-4 ~19:30-19:40 Fainter than -5?; several reports* Ireland
10/02/12-13 21:13 +/- 5m -6/-11?; 3 reports* Staffs, Lincs & Co Durham
10/02/15-16 21:57 >-13? Stirlingshire
10/02/17-18 22:37 Bright Co Donegal
10/03/08 ~14:25 Brilliant; in daylight Liverpool
10/03/21-22 20:05 Very bright; 2 reports* Guernsey
10/03/21-22 ~22:00 Very bright; 6 reports* Guernsey & Jersey
10/04/6-7 03:17 -7 Edinburgh
10/04/9-10 20:15 +/- 5m -10?; 2 reports Glasgow & Edinburgh
10/04/11-12 ~04:25 Brilliant Cornwall
10/04/14-15 21:31 -5/-7 Gwent
10/04/16-17 ~21:30-21:45 -5?* Kent
10/04/16-17 21:58-22:00 Very bright; green; 8 reports* S England & NW France
10/04/16-17 22:00-22:03 Bright; green; 2 reports* Norfolk
10/04/16-17 ~23:55 Bright; green* Hertfordshire
10/04/17-18 ~23:00 Bright; green-white Gloucestershire
10/04/23-24 ~22:00 -3* Suffolk
10/04/27-28 20:15 +/- 10m Very bright; 3 reports* S England
10/05/14-15 01:20 Bright; 2 reports; imaged* Warwickshire & Netherlands
10/05/16-17 01:20 Very bright; in clouds E Sussex
10/05/24-25 23:28 -8 Berkshire
10/05/25-26 22:05 Bright Hampshire
10/05/28-29 ~22:30 Bright; 2 reports Co Cork & Gwynedd
10/06/16-17 ~00:01 Bright; very slow* Northamptonshire
10/06/17-18 ~03:30 -4 Surrey
10/06/28-29 23:00 +/- 3m Bright; flared twice Gwynedd
10/06/29-30 23:07 Very bright Conwy
10/06/29-30 ~00:30 Bright Ceredigion
10/07/13-14 ~20:30 Brilliant* Guernsey
10/07/13-14 ~21:00 -9; 3 reports* S England
10/07/18-19 22:16 Brighter than -5; 3 reports; imaged* E England & Netherlands
10/07/20-21 ~22:05 Very bright Carmarthenshire
10/07/27-28 02:04 Very bright; sonic booms? Lincolnshire
10/07/28-29 23:58 -7/-9?; fragmented Cornwall
10/08/4-5 21:10 Bright; 2 reports Shrops & Hants
10/08/4-5 ~22:00 Very bright; 2 reports W Midlands
10/08/7-8 21:40 -5/-6; 2 reports Wilts & Oxon
10/08/7-8 01:16 -9; probable SDA Denbighshire
10/08/10-11 ~20:15 Bright; non-PER Wiltshire
10/08/10-11 22:07 +/- 8m -4/-7; CAP?; 4 reports Bucks, Beds, London & Wrexham
10/08/10-11 00:42 Brighter than -6; PER; 4 reports; imaged* SE England & Isle of Wight
10/08/10-11 01:20 +/- 1m Very bright; PER; imaged* Isle of Wight
10/08/12-13 21:43 +/- 1m -8/-12; PER; 5 reports; imaged* Central-southern England
10/08/14-15 ~04:00 Bright Cumbria
10/08/15-16 02:56 +/- 1m Bright; imaged* Isle of Wight
10/08/23-24 ~20:00 Bright Lincolnshire
10/08/29-30 23:30-23:40 Bright Manchester
10/08/30-31 23:22 Bright London
10/08/30-31 ~02:30 Very bright W Midlands
10/09/4-5 23:27 -5 Somerset
10/09/5-6 00:39 Bright; multiple images* S Britain & Netherlands
10/09/8-9 ~23:00 Bright Hampshire
10/09/15-16 18:45 Full Moon brightness Dorset
10/09/15-16 20:05 Bright; in clouds N Somerset
10/09/17-18 00:55 Bright; 3 reports; imaged* Lincs, Norfolk & Essex
10/09/25-26 ~21:25 Bright Fife
10/09/25-26 ~05:00 Bright Northamptonshire
10/10/2-3 23:38 -7? Warwickshire
10/10/9-10 01:32 Very bright; imaged* Northern Ireland
10/10/11-12 03:44 Very bright; 2 reports; imaged* Herts & Netherlands
10/10/12-13 21:03 +/- 1m Bright; imaged* Isle of Wight
10/10/15-16 01:06:19 Very bright; ORI?; 2 reports; imaged* Herts & Isle of Wight
10/10/16-17 ~00:20 Brilliant Aberdeenshire
10/10/19-20 03:20:49 Bright; ORI; 2 reports; imaged* Herts & Isle of Wight
10/10/19-20 ~06:55 Brilliant; near sunrise; 2 reports* Argyll & Cumbria
10/10/20-21 03:54:00 Very bright; ORI; 2 reports; imaged* Herts & Isle of Wight
10/10/24-25 03:20 Very bright; terminal flare* Edinburgh
10/11/0-1 06:25 -6; green-white Anglesey
10/11/6-7 ~23;40 Very bright; seen from indoors Ross-shire
10/11/7-8 ~17:30 Bright* Hampshire
10/11/7-8 18:05 +/- 2m -8; 3 reports* Hants, Middx & Wilts
10/11/11-12 ~19:00 Bright; fragmented* Hampshire
10/11/11-12 21:58 Very bright; 3 reports; imaged* S & E England & Netherlands
10/11/13-14 00:21 -5; orange; fragmented Gwynedd
10/11/14-15 18:20 Very bright; orange* N Lanarkshire
10/11/14-15 04:55-05:00 Very bright; 2 reports* W Yorks & Somerset
10/11/14-15 ~05:40 Very bright; 24 reports* Scotland & N England
10/11/15-16 17:12 +/- 5m -5/-12; 29 reports* Scotland, England & Wales
10/11/15-16 ~04:00 Brighter than -3; green London
10/11/15-16 05:00-05:15 -6?; fragmented; 2 reports* Staffs & Oxon
10/11/19 08:09-08:10 -6/-8; in daylight; 8 reports* S England
10/11/23-24 21:20 Brighter than -3; yellow-white Warwickshire
10/11/25-26 ~19:00 Very bright; colourful; terminal burst* Oxfordshire
10/11/27-28 ~00:00 Bright Staffordshire
10/11/27-28 02:10 Brilliant; seen from indoors* Devon
10/11/28-29 17:42 +/- 5m -9/-14; 48 reports* Western British Isles
10/11/28-29 ~20:00 Very bright; 2 reports* Cos. Armagh & Derry
10/11/28-29 22:26 -3; very long; left sparks Hampshire
10/12/5-6 ~19:20 Very bright Co. Durham
10/12/8-9 17:36 +/- 5m -8/-11; 76 reports; imaged* Scotland, England & Wales
10/12/9-10 ~15:45 Bright; near sunset* W Midlands
10/12/9-10 ~19:00 Bright Hertfordshire
10/12/9-10 ~20:38 -6/-8; 5 reports; imaged* S England
10/12/10-11 16:30 Bright; green Somerset
10/12/12-13 23:35 Very bright; blue; flare; GEM? Midlothian
10/12/14-15 19:08 -4; GEM? Kent
10/12/14-15 ~22:00 Very bright* Devon
10/12/14-15 06:13 Bright; GEM? Hampshire
10/12/21-22 21:15 Very bright; seen from indoors Perthshire
10/12/23-24 07:20 Bright; fragmented E Lothian

The initial, brief, information on the January 8-9 fireball was on the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum.

Two of the three observations of the January 16-17 fireball came from the Wirral peninsula, where the meteor passed almost overhead, and information provided by the lucky witnesses has allowed an approximate atmospheric trajectory to be established for this event, as shown on the accompanying sketch-map by the red arrowed line. It probably flew above parts of north Wales and northern England, on a roughly WSW to ENE track, and was almost grazing the atmosphere, producing a long visible trajectory. The start could not be well-established, but assuming a height of between ~120-100 km altitude suggested the fireball may have first become visible over Caernarfon Bay, about 35 km off the northern Lleyn Peninsula coast of Gwynedd, (likely near 52.9°N, 5.1°W for a ~120 km altitude start – beginning of the dashed line – or 53°N, 4.8°W for a ~100 km start – beginning of the solid line). From there, it passed over the extreme north of mainland Wales, from roughly Caernarfon to Point of Ayr, then across the mouth of the Dee to the northern tip of the Wirral in northwest England (plausibly between West Kirby to Birkenhead), above the Mersey, Liverpool (likely a little south of the city centre) and the Pennines of the Lancs-Yorks border northeast of Manchester-Oldham, and somewhat south of Leeds, to end around 75 km altitude near Mickletown on the River Aire, midway between Castleford and Rothwell southeast of Leeds (above approximately 53.7°N, 1.4°W). Assuming this trajectory was correct would imply the entry angle was very shallow, between ~6° to ~11° from the horizontal, giving an atmospheric path length from ~246 to ~269 km. The observers (red dots) estimated the meteor was visible from 5 to 8 seconds, whose average (~6.5 seconds) indicated an atmospheric velocity, not allowing for deceleration, of ~38-41 km/sec, so about medium-speed on the 11 to 72 km/sec atmospheric velocity scale for meteors. The outlying range for this rough velocity would have been ~31-54 km/sec. Some fragmentation along the path was seen, with the colours noted as mainly yellow or white. The very high end height and the significant fragmentation would both count against any meteorites surviving and being recovered, while the shallow approach-angle made it almost impossible to define where any such falls could have happened; perhaps into the eastern North Sea, the Baltic, or nearby parts of southern Scandinavia, as a best-guess. No reports of any such falls were received, however.

2010 January 16-17 ~22:45 UT Fireball Path
2010 January 16-17 ~22:45 UT Fireball Path

French meteor expert Karl Antier reported the January 24-25 fireball was caught on video from France. The video can be accessed from the appropriate link here. The meteor was seen to the south of Le Havre in northern France, so might have been spotted from southern England too. No UK sightings of it were received, however.

Information regarding the February 3-4 fireballs was somewhat confused, and there may have been three separate events seen from Ireland and/or Northern Ireland before 20h UT that evening. Much of the information came from media reports, suggesting there were “hundreds” of sightings, though a mere three actual observations arrived, plus news that Irish coastguards were alerted after witnesses called-in from four places, some well inland, scattered across central and southwest Ireland. One report each around the earlier timing came from Co Armagh in Northern Ireland, and a little south of Dublin’s city centre in the Irish Republic. The Co Armagh observer saw the object in the northwest to north-northwest sky, while the near-Dublin observer saw the fireball pass behind buildings to the north-northeast, at a similar elevation above the horizon to what the Armagh witness reported for the meteor’s start point. If correct, they would indicate the sightings must have been of different meteors. In turn, that might suggest there were two fireballs, one off northwest Ireland/Northern Ireland, the other off eastern Northern Ireland/northeast Ireland, the neighbouring Irish Sea, or adjacent parts of western Britain, between roughly 17:55-18:00 UT. A further, definitely separate, event, around 19:30-19:40 UT was reported as apparently fainter than the earlier meteor(s), but almost no information other than this reached the Section about it. An initial note was posted on the SPA’s Observing Forum. A fuller discussion, complete with the initial near-Dublin sighting, and ~19:35 UT meteor information, plus other media links, can be found on the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum. Claims of a video recording of the ~18h fireball proved false, as this was imaged in 2008 apparently, and in some places online, it was seemingly shown in reverse anyway.

The February 12-13 fireball may have flown high above parts of NW England and/or N Wales, perhaps on a roughly NE-SW trajectory, but it was not possible to define this more exactly. The Staffordshire report can be seen on the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum.

Most of the sightings from the Channel Islands on March 21-22 came in the form of brief media reports and online comments only, and the information was not always clear from these as to where some observers were, or what time their sightings were made. Fireball reports reaching the Meteor Section directly from that night suggested there were at least two separate meteors involved, one at 20:05 UT, the other around 22:00, with most people having apparently witnessed the later event. Information on where the objects may have overflown was rather sketchy. The 20:05 fireball may have moved roughly north to south, perhaps over the Cotentin Peninsula, or the southern Channel east of there and over other parts of Normandy in northern France. The ~22:00 meteor may have passed from somewhere east of Jersey to south of that island. Witness’ notes on the events that evening are available on media webpages from Guernsey and Jersey, but note that the media sources, and most early comments, were based on the belief just a single event was involved.

Reports from the witnesses of the April 9-10 fireball suggested the object may have followed a roughly south to north trajectory over eastern Scotland north of the Fife peninsula, perhaps across part of the eastern Grampian Mountains of the “Aberdeen angle”, or the North Sea offshore of there.

Two of the initial sightings of the April 16-17, ~22:00 UT event can be found on the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum. That fireball seemed to have been out high above the western Channel, and part of its flight may have been some way offshore of the English coast between roughly Prawle Point in Devon and Lizard Point in Cornwall. Most observers were impressed both by its brilliance and its vivid green colour, though suggestions the colour (and those of the other green fireballs reported that week, assuming all were separate events) may have been due to the thin volcanic ash cloud over and near the British Isles from Iceland at the time, seem to have been without foundation. Bright green, though not common, does occur in meteors, particularly the brighter ones, without any such assistance. The apparently similar fireball around 22h UT seen from Norfolk was reported as observed to the east-southeast from there, and if so, it must have been a different meteor. The ~21:30-21:45 UT event was seen to the northwest, heading north from Kent, so again was clearly a separate fireball. Preliminary notes on the 23:55 UT meteor can be found on the SPA’s Observing Forum.

Notes from the witness of the April 23-24 fireball can be found among the comments regarding the April 16-17 fireballs on the SPA’s Observing Forum.

One of the reports on the April 27-28 fireball suggested an associated sonic boom may have been heard from Shropshire, while the others indicated the object had fragmented during its flight. No information regarding its possible trajectory could be established unfortunately, but if the sonic boom was linked to the meteor, it may have passed over or near southern Shropshire.

The May 14-15 fireball seen from Britain was probably the same as that imaged from the Netherlands by the all-sky fireball camera of Klaas Jobse at Oostkapelle. Red and green colours were recorded visually and on Klaas’ image, for instance. Further investigation suggested the fireball may have flown on a roughly southeast to northwest trajectory above East Anglia, possibly from a point around 90-100 km altitude above central-northern Essex, somewhere from ~10 km south of Colchester to ~20 km west of that city. The last imaged point on the trail, which was almost certainly not the true end, could have been 10 km or so south of Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, at an altitude of ~50 km. Extrapolating from these rough estimates could imply the true end was maybe 45 +/- 5 km altitude above a point ~20 km northwest of Peterborough. Taking these values as approximately correct would compute to an atmospheric path length for the fireball between ~120-125 km, descending at an angle of 20°-30° from the horizontal. The visual observer’s estimate for the event’s duration of three to four seconds inferred an atmospheric velocity for the event, not allowing for deceleration, of ~35 +/- 7 km/sec, thus about medium-speed. These parameters, while merely best-estimates, fitted plausibly within the expected ranges for fireball-class meteors. There is no evidence to suggest a meteorite fall happened following this meteor, but continuing the estimated trajectory to the surface might have suggested an arrival zone roughly on or east of a line from about Nottingham north-northwest to the Leeds area.

A description of the June 16-17 fireball can be found on the Observing Forum.

Though there were similarities between them, and some uncertainty in their timings, it is probable the two July 13-14 fireballs were separate events. That seen from Guernsey was likely high above the Channel, perhaps above the western part of Lyme Bay, or possibly the adjacent parts of Devon. The ~21h UT event was witnessed from Kent, Somerset and Wiltshire, and it too may have happened over the Channel, probably off or over the Dorset coast. It may have been travelling in a direction between roughly E-W to SE-NW, and its path likely fell within about 60 km of a point above the sea ~10-20 km south of Lulworth Cove, Dorset. Its start altitude could have been ~115 +/- 10 km, but the end was too poorly-constrained to suggest a more plausible height range.

The July 18-19 fireball was seen from two separate sites in Suffolk. It was imaged by Klaas Jobse’s automated all-sky camera system at Oostkapelle in the Netherlands, part of the European Fireball Network of camera stations, and by the all-sky Bayfordbury camera belonging to the University of Hertfordshire. The images were quite faint, and Klaas provided an enlarged inset of his, showing the trail in more detail. It was not possible to determine a particularly accurate trajectory for the event, though the probable south to north path may have lain between 100 to 70 km altitude above the southern North Sea, perhaps 35-40 km offshore of the Suffolk coast of East Anglia, as a best-estimate.

August 10-11, at 00:42 UT, brought the Hertfordshire University’s first multi-station fireball capture, a brilliant Perseid, with both the Hemel Hempstead and Niton cameras recording it – despite rain on the lens at Hemel! More famously, it was also caught on video by Peter Meadows in Essex, though the fireball ended off the field of view, an image which has been reproduced in various places since. The video is available on YouTube at six frames per second and one frame per second, and shows the fireball’s persistent train, which remained visible on video for three minutes! A visual observer in Surrey was reported in the 2010 SeptemberThe Astronomermagazine (p. 127) as having seen it detonate in the Square of Pegasus with an iridescent blue-green colour, and confirmed the persistent train was visible with the unaided eye for three to four minutes (with thanks to TA’s Meteor Editor Tony Markham for providing the latter information). Herts University analyst David Campbell was able to derive a trajectory for the meteor as well, showing it flew on a roughly northeast to southwest track high above western Kent to East Sussex. A map of the projected surface track and copies of the three main fireball images can be found in our Report on the 2010 Perseids.

The Herts University camera at Niton caught the ~01:20 UT fireball on August 10-11 too, another excellently bright Perseid, which is also shown in our Report on the 2010 Perseids.

One probable and one possible sighting of the brilliant August 12-13 Perseid fireball can be found on the “Perseids 2010” Observing Forum topic, reported by “UtopiaPlanitia” just northwest of London (posting timed at 22:51 BST on August 12; the automatic time-stamps appeared to be inaccurate compared to actual clock time) and “@@” in the West Midlands (22:13 BST on August 12) respectively. The other lucky visual observers were in Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire. As usual near the Perseid maximum, few people kept a detailed record of precisely where in the sky any fireballs appeared, but assuming the four more probable reports were of the same meteor, it would likely have flown on a roughly NE to SW trajectory high above the Derbyshire-Staffordshire-Shropshire area, or points adjacent. The Hemel Hempstead camera of the Hertfordshire University’s system managed to image it too, if a little weakly. Another 40 UK Perseid fireball reports were received from meteor watches carried out between August 9-10 and 15-16 inclusive, which are not listed here.

A final 2010 Perseid image by the Niton camera belonging to the University of Hertfordshire was captured on August 15-16.

Information calculated from the triangulated trail for the September 5-6 meteor indicated it passed on an ESE-WNW track (the trail heading was towards 275° azimuth), starting at 103 km altitude nearly above Chelmsford in Essex, and ending at 81 km altitude almost above Hertford, just 9 km ENE of the Herts University Bayfordbury camera station! The trail length was 46 km, descending at an angle to the horizontal of 29° (data kindly provided by Hertfordshire University analyst David Campbell). The following links are to the three Herts system images: Bayfordbury, Niton and Cromer (where the trail is just visible slipping into the tree at the bottom). David Campbell also reported the meteor had been imaged by the Cambridge University Institute of Astronomy’s all-sky camera and by Paul Beesken’s all-sky video camera. The trail was recorded too by our old friend Klaas Jobse from Oostkapelle in the Netherlands, and it may have been seen by a lucky witness in near-coastal West Sussex as well.

The Herts University camera at Cromer captured part of the September 17-18 fireball’s image, though the end was outside the camera’s field of view.

Apostolus Christou of Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland reported the imaging of a very bright fireball on October 9-10 by the Observatory’s specialist meteor cameras. Visual sightings were forwarded from other places in the province to Armagh, all of which suggested the object probably passed high over NW Ireland, ending perhaps around 70-80 km altitude. The atmospheric entry velocity was estimated at between 20-30 km/sec. While proposed as a possible Draconid from its general direction of travel, such an atmospheric entry velocity may have been slightly too high, given that the Draconids’ atmospheric velocity tends to average only ~20 km/sec. For more details, including an image, see the SPA’s General Chat Forum.

Another multi-station fireball success for the University of Hertfordshire’s all-sky camera system was reported by analyst David Campbell from the morning of October 11-12. The Bayfordbury, Herts camera caught a spectacular shot of the meteor despite thin clouds. Although regrettably the other three Hertfordshire University cameras seem to have missed it, veteran all-sky imager Klaas Jobse in the Netherlands at Oostkapelle captured the meteor using his fireball system too. David Campbell reported that an approximate triangulation using both images suggested the meteor was travelling northeastwards high above Sussex.

The Herts University’s Niton camera recorded the October 12-13 fireball.

Hertfordshire University enjoyed further multi-station successes during the 2010 Orionids. The first of three events was a possible Orionid on October 15-16, caught at Bayfordbury (despite some rain on the lens) and Niton. Details of the calculated trajectory included a map and height diagram, with the meteor having passed above the Channel southwest of Isle of Wight, on a roughly ESE-WNW track, ending some way south of The Needles. Trajectory details and maps for the projected surface tracks for all three triangulated potential Orionids, with copies of the images, can be found in our Report on the 2010 Orionids.

The second Herts University triangulated fireball during the Orionids was a probable Orionid on October 19-20 at 03:20 UT, again captured at Bayfordbury and Niton. This object’s trajectory was entirely over land, as it shot generally SSE-NNW above western West Sussex and eastern Hampshire. Trajectory details and maps for the projected surface tracks for all three triangulated potential Orionids, with copies of the images, can be found in our Report on the 2010 Orionids.

A few hours later, around or soon after sunrise on the morning of October 20, a notably brilliant event occurred for NW Britain. The meteor seemed to have been moving on a roughly west to east track, and was likely high above Northern Ireland, the North Channel-Firth of Clyde area and probably the adjacent land of southwest Scotland, though no more accurate trajectory could be estimated for it.

A final triangulated Orionid for the Hertfordshire University cameras was on October 20-21, recorded at Hemel Hempstead and Niton (despite some clouds). This event was entirely above the Channel, a long way south of Beachy Head, trending generally SSE-NNW, as demonstrated on the trajectory’s webpage. Trajectory details and maps for the projected surface tracks for all three triangulated potential Orionids, with copies of the images, can be found in our Report on the 2010 Orionids.

The initial report of the October 24-25 fireball can be found on the SPA’s General Chat Forum.

There may have been two separate bright fireballs seen from sites in southern England on the early evening of November 7-8. The first, probably around 17:30 UT, was seen to the west from the south coast near Portsmouth, moving roughly south to north. The second, observed from three places and timed to within a couple of minutes either side of 18:05 UT, was seen to the south from Middlesex, heading southeastwards from there, so must have been a different object. Both fireballs were relatively slow-moving/long-lasting, each remaining visible for up to five seconds, with the earlier event described as yellow-white in colour, the later blue-white or orange. All the observers of the ~18:05 meteor noted it as having fragmented later in its flight, producing red-orange pieces. Taking the approximate directions of motion as correct would suggest both were likely sporadics, and the early evening hours are statistically the time of day when most sporadic fireballs happen. (This seems to be a real effect, rather than that more people tend to be outdoors at the start of the night than later.) The initial Wiltshire sighting and some additional comments on both meteors can be found on the Observing Forum.

A brief note on the ~19h UT fireball on November 11-12 first appeared among the online discussions regarding the fireballs of November 15 (see below) on the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum (see the posting by “Lex Ray” from November 15). A later fireball, vaguely stated as having occurred only “in the early hours” of November 12, was reported from Dundee on the BBC News’ website discussion of events on November 15. Its magnitude could have been around -5 to -9, and it was described as blue-green in colour.

Another impressive fireball was caught by the University of Hertfordshire’s all-sky camera at Cromer, at 21:58 UT on November 11-12. Though no other cameras in the network captured this event, it was also imaged by Klaas Jobse operating his European Fireball Network camera from the Netherlands. Klaas’ image showed the fireball as green-blue in colour. The Hertfordshire University analyst David Campbell indicated the event was high over the North Sea off the English coast, heading roughly northwest, so towards Britain. He also noted that the fireball’s persistent train was visible on the next two successive frames taken by the Cromer camera. As each exposure lasted two minutes, that could imply the train remained visible to the camera for more than three to four minutes. An animation of the three images is the best way to view the mist-like train and see how it drifted with time, while the individual train images are here and here. Two lucky visual witnesses at the same place in Buckinghamshire seemed to have spotted the fireball visually too, from indoors! More comments on this event, with a cut-down animation of the fireball and its train are on the Observing Forum.

Several fireball sightings from November 14-15 and 15-16 came to light as part of the online discussions regarding the two more widely-seen events on November 15, which latter are detailed separately below. These sightings included those on November 14-15, at 18:20 (e-mail note by “Chris, Cumbernauld” on the BBC News webpage), and one of the 04:55-05:00 reports (from “Shaun, Taunton, Somerset”, also on the BBC News webpage), plus both sightings from 05:00-05:15 UT on November 15-16 (postings by “Halo” and “corrdog” on November 16 among the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum notices).

The first of the widely-observed fireballs on November 15 occurred around 05:40 UT on November 14-15. It was reported from places all across mainland Scotland, between Moffat in Dumfries & Galloway north to Durness on the north Highland coast, and from Prestwick by the Ayrshire coast in the west to near Peterhead in Aberdeenshire on the east, as well as in northern England, south as far as the southern shores of Morecambe Bay, Lancashire. A possible 25th report of this meteor was made from Derbyshire too, but this could not be confirmed. Unfortunately, few people were able to provide details on where the object had appeared in the sky for them, so the information derived on where the meteor flew over could be determined only tentatively. However, its visible flight may have begun high above the North Channel, off The Rhins peninsula of western Dumfries & Galloway, or over north to eastern Northern Ireland. It seemed to have headed roughly north from there, and may have ended above Easter Ross in Highland or somewhere further north, perhaps over the sea. The path may have been angled quite shallowly to the surface, which potentially near-grazing trajectory could have helped account for the long track, possibly more than 350 km. Seven observers reported definite fragmentation occurred, probably quite late in the flight, into up to four main pieces and a lot of smaller ones resembling sparks. Not everyone confirmed this, in some cases because the late flight was unobserved, but in others, likely because the observing angle to the trail concealed the fragmentation event(s). Various colours were reported for the main meteor, with most people who noted them (47%) favouring white, followed by green (18%), orange (17%), yellow (12%), and red (6%). Colours in the fireball’s tail, where different to the head and possibly including the fragments in some cases, were yellow, orange and red (29% each) or green (13%). Many of the initial sightings came from messages posted to the BBC News webpage for the November 15 fireballs. Further early discussion and links can be found among postings to the SPA’s “Leonids 2010” Observing Forum topic, and also on the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum.

Less than twelve hours later, the second widely-reported UK fireball happened on the early evening of November 15-16, around 17:12 UT. Sightings came from across much of England, south Wales and central to northern Scotland, from Somerset and Surrey in the south to the Black Isle of eastern Highland in the north. Although more people than for the ~05:40 meteor were able to give information on where the object had appeared in the sky, no consensus was found on where the fireball may have been in the atmosphere from these details. However, its start was plausibly high above northwest England, probably over south-central Cumbria, perhaps around the Kendal-Windermere area or nearby. It seemed to have followed a generally east to west trending path from there, or one closer to ENE to WSW, to a likely end-point above the Irish Sea off the Lancashire-Cumbria coasts, or over the Isle of Man. Taking the atmospheric path-length as roughly 100-120 km, and the average estimated total visible flight time (12 reports) as 2.3 seconds, suggested an atmospheric velocity, not allowing for deceleration, of ~43-52 km/sec, so about fast-medium speed on the typical meteor scale, if correct. Nobody reported seeing any significant fragmentation. Its peak brightness was probably in the magnitude range -8 to -12, or a little brighter. The colours reported included white and green (32% each), blue (18%), orange (11%) and yellow (7%). Again, some of the initial sightings with additional comments and discussion can be found via the three web-links given for the November 14-15, ~05:40 UT event above.

The daylight fireball of November 19 may have had a roughly WNW to ESE path high above Warwickshire-Leicestershire to perhaps the Cambridgeshire-Essex-Suffolk region of East Anglia. No more accurate trajectory could be established, unfortunately. If the meteor’s path was very approximately 150 km long, the average visible time for the fireball’s flight of 3.7 seconds would have suggested an atmospheric velocity, not allowing for deceleration, of ~40 km/sec, so about medium speed for a meteor. Colours reported were predominantly white, sometimes with green or blue. Definite observations of this event were made from Bucks, Beds, Oxon, west and south London and Hants. A ninth observation may have been made from south Glasgow, but this could not be confirmed. Several initial reports were located via the “UK UFO Sightings” webpage, following an alert from one of the witnesses reporting to the SPA directly. Note that some of these were apparently written after assuming the meteor was actually an unknown aerial vehicle.

Preliminary sighting notes for the November 25-26 fireball are in a posting by “Netto” from November 27 on the Observing Forum.

See the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum for the report on the 02:10 UT November 27-28 fireball.

Closing a month replete with multi-site fireballs in 2010, the main event on November 28-29 happened in the early evening, probably within about five minutes of 17:42 UT. It was widely-seen from places across Northern Ireland and Eire, Wales and northwest England, west as far as Bolton in Lancashire and Shrewsbury in Shropshire. Thanks to details rapidly published online by Armagh Observatory, who collected the vast majority of the Irish and Northern Irish sightings, and excluding duplicates but including sightings sent to the Meteor Section directly, at least 48 separate reports were received of this meteor. Three more may have been of this event too, but contained too few details to be certain. Two of the Armagh list’s reports were of the ~20:00 UT fireball instead, for which unfortunately no other details could be derived. An initial review of the early data received at Armagh was published online, with a call for more observations, especially any images caught by CCTV security cameras. A more detailed examination of the visual sightings received by the SPA has regrettably been unable to significantly improve the initially quite vague idea of where the meteor may have overflown, as the data available did not allow a clear, single solution. It seems likely this was because very few people saw either the start or end of the complete trail (fourteen reports specifically mentioned the end as behind clouds, trees or rooftops), and the fact the atmospheric trajectory seemed to have been unusually long, and long-lasting. As a best-guess though, the meteor may have first become visible somewhere high above central to NE Scotland, or over the North Sea off the Scottish east coast perhaps between St Abb’s Head and Aberdeen. Its visible end-point was probably over the Atlantic some distance off the Co. Mayo, Eire, coast west of Donegal Bay, or possibly further south. It is likely the only land the fireball flew over was central or northern Scotland and perhaps some of the Western Isles. This could imply an atmospheric trajectory in excess of 600-650 km, if correct. An unexpectedly large range of visible flight-time estimates was made – between 1.5 to 2 seconds at the shortest to 30 seconds at the longest! This scatter was another factor in suggesting few people apparently saw the whole flight. Most estimates (74%) ranged from 3-15 seconds, with more than half (52%) favouring 5-10 seconds. However, 18% of the estimates still fell between 15-30 seconds. Assuming the long atmospheric path was right could have suggested timings in excess of 10 seconds may indeed have been more accurate. Even a meteor near the upper end of the usual 11-72 km/sec trajectory range for meteoric atmospheric-entry velocities, would have needed 8 to 9 seconds to accomplish a ~600-650 km flight, for instance. The fireball was commonly described as quite comet-like, with a distinct, round head and a narrower following tail. Another large scatter was apparent in the colours described as seen in this main meteor and its tail. The percentages of each colour-class from those who mentioned colours at all were as follows. Head or whole fireball: White 27%, orange 20%, green 18%, yellow 14%, blue 14%, red 7%. Tail: Red 27%, orange 23%, white and green 14% each, yellow and purple/violet 9% each, and blue 4%. Sixteen reports mentioned some kind of fragmentation occurred, probably quite late in the flight, with many favouring quite small pieces being involved, often like sparks. However, two people who claimed to have followed the meteor to its end were equally clear that no fragmentation had happened at all. For once, there was consistency in that nobody reported hearing any sounds they associated with the meteor.

Report continues here.

Fireball Reports from 2009

Fireball reports, especially those made from the British Isles and nearby areas, are always welcomed by the SPA Meteor Section. See the Making and Reporting Fireball Observations page on this website for details of what to record on seeing a fireball, where and how to report your data.

Below is a list of some of the fireballs reported to the Section from 2009. It mainly consists of those events seen away from the major meteor shower maxima (when fireballs are more common), unless the objects were not part of the meteor shower in question, or were particularly impressive. A "*" in the ‘Magnitude and Notes’ column indicates further details are given below the table.

Table of Fireball Reports




Date Time (UT) Magnitude and Notes Observed from
09/01/4-5 17:16 -4/-5 Isle of Man
09/01/6-7 17:30 Bright; fragmented* Leicestershire
09/01/6-7 ~19:00 Bright* Bedfordshire
09/01/9-10 18:47 +/- 8m -5/-8?; 10 reports* England & S Wales
09/01/17-18 19:08 Brilliant; many reports; imaged* N Europe
09/01/18-19 ~17:40 -4?* Suffolk
09/01/18-19 ~22:34 -3/-6 Gloucestershire
09/02/13-14 02:11:18 Bright; several reports; imaged* N France
09/02/14-15 ~18:37 Bright Tyne & Wear
09/03/4-5 02:54 Very bright; 2 reports; imaged* NE Lincs & Netherlands
09/03/10-11 18:45 -5/-10; 23 reports* S England & S Wales
09/03/12-13 04:25 Bright Suffolk
09/03/14-15 00:45 Bright Pembrokeshire
09/03/15-16 23:56 Brilliant Middlesex
09/03/15-16 00:10 -8/-12; 2 reports* Derbys & Wilts
09/03/20-21 22:45 About -7; several reports Belgium & N France
09/03/20-21 ~23:00 Brighter than -5 Isle of Man
09/03/22-23 21:21 At least -2/-3 Northamptonshire
09/04/4-5 23:32 +/- 2m -8/-10?; multiple reports* England, N Ireland, Ireland
09/04/11-12 ~00:00 -6/-9 Liverpool
09/04/17-18 22:59 -3; Possible LYR Shropshire
09/04/19-20 ~22:00 Very bright* Shropshire
09/04/19-20 22:56 Bright; seen from indoors* Denbighshire
09/04/20-21 ~20:45-20:50 -7/-10; fragmented Northamptonshire
09/04/20-21 22:31 -8; Non-LYR* York
09/04/21-22 21:25 -8; Non-LYR* Isle of Man
09/04/21-22 ~22:03 Bright; 2 reports*; Non-LYR Salford & W Yorks
09/04/21-22 00:12 -5; Non-LYR* Northumberland
09/04/26-27 ~20:35 -7 Nottinghamshire
09/04/26-27 21:15 -5; 2 reports N Yorkshire
09/04/27-28 01:39 -3/-5 Co Durham
09/04/29-30 ~20:00 -10?* Derbyshire
09/05/7-8 ~01:00 Bright; fragmented Buckinghamshire
09/05/9-10 ~21:30 Very bright Co Donegal, Ireland
09/05/11-12 ~21:35 -9; 12 reports* Britain
09/05/12-13 22:30 Very bright Co Antrim
09/05/24-25 20:51 -9; fragmented Cornwall
09/05/26-27 ~22:57-22:58 -3/-5* Aberdeenshire
09/05/28-29 22:36 -3; fragmented* West Midlands
09/05/28-29 01:30 +/- 30m Very bright Essex
09/05/28-29 01:46 At least -3 Essex
09/06/3-4 ~21:15 At least -7; seen from indoors Cornwall
09/06/9-10 ~22:45 Very bright Argyll
09/06/15-16 ~20:30 Bright; some media reports* Guernsey & S England
09/07/2-3 20:30 Bright Lancashire
09/07/3-4 22:55 About -6/-7; 3 reports; imaged* England & Netherlands
09/07/6-7 23:48 -3 Northamptonshire
09/07/8-9 21:56 Bright W Sussex
09/07/8-9 23:38-23:40 Bright; fragmented; 2 reports Lancs & E Lothian
09/07/15-16 22:30 Bright Inverclyde
09/07/18-19 23:00-23:05 Brighter than -10; 3 reports* NW France
09/07/24-25 ~23:15 -8/-13? Merseyside
09/07/27-28 ~22:20 Bright Dumfries & Galloway
09/08/15-16 ~23:30 Bright Bedfordshire
09/08/21-22 22:43 Brighter than -3* West Midlands
09/08/27-28 00:45-00:50 Bright* Belfast
09/09/3-4 20:00-20:15 Very bright; media reports* Ireland
09/09/9-10 23:30 +/- 10m -5 N Yorkshire
09/09/20-21 23:25 Bright Devon
09/10/11-12 19:23 -4 Hertfordshire
09/10/13-14 ~18:00 Brilliant; imaged* Netherlands
09/10/22-23 ~19:20 Brighter than -3* Devon
09/10/28-29 ~23:00 -8 Midlothian
09/11/6-7 22:06 At least -4 Northamptonshire
09/11/11-12 ~06:40 -3/-4* Hampshire
09/11/15-16 ~17:15 Bright Wiltshire
09/11/16-17 22:36 -6; probable STA W Yorkshire
09/11/16-17 05:47 >-13; 2 reports; LEO; imaged* Lancs & Co Londonderry
09/11/21-22 00:57 Brighter than -5; imaged* Co Armagh
09/11/26-27 ~17:58 Bright Leicestershire
09/12/3-4 20:00 +/- 5m Roughly -9; 11 reports* S England
09/12/3-4 22:30 +/- 30m Very bright – cast shadows* Dorset
09/12/16-17 02:42 -7/-8; GEM* Co Londonderry
09/12/17-18 ~04:10-04:15 Bright* Derbyshire
09/12/19 ~12:45 -15/-20; in daylight; 13 reports* Central & E England


Detailed Reports


Date Time (UT) Notes Details
09/01/6-7 17:30 Bright; fragmented*; Leicestershire Preliminary sighting notes for both the January 6-7 fireballs can be found among the Quadrantids topic postings on the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum.
09/01/6-7 ~19:00 Bright*; Bedfordshire
09/01/9-10 18:47 +/- 8m -5/-8?; 10 reports*; England & S Wales The January 9-10 fireball seems to have moved roughly NE to SW, having started somewhere high above NW or central-western Wales, or perhaps somewhat east of there over northern Wales, and moved out over Cardigan Bay towards St George’s Channel, judging by the reports received, though this possible track could not be firmly-established. Most witnesses described it as slow-moving, and it was visible for probably 3 to 4 seconds. Colours reported included blue, red, orange and yellow, plus green (perhaps in the object’s tail). Some of the sighting reports can be found on the SPA’s Observing Forum and in the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Quadrantids topic.
09/01/17-18 19:08 Brilliant; many reports; imaged*; N Europe Details on the amazing January 17-18 fireball, plus links to sites with more, including some of the images, can be found on the SPA’s General Chat Forum. Unfortunately, though the meteor was imaged as far west in Europe as the Netherlands, most observers of it were much further east across northern Europe no sightings of the event were received from Britain. Carbonaceous chondrite meteorites found on the Danish island of Lolland in early March have been associated with this meteor (see ENB 264).
09/01/18-19 ~17:40 -4?*; Suffolk Initial sighting notes on the ~17:40 UT fireball from January 18-19 can be found among the postings here on the SPA’s Observing Forum.
09/02/13-14 02:11:18 Bright; several reports; imaged*; N France French colleague Karl Antier kindly provided notes on the imaged fireball seen from around and north of Paris on February 13-14. The object was caught on video from Normandy, hence the very precise timing, and this can be seen via the ‘météores/bolides’ link on observer Stéfane Jouin’s homepage (then check for Feb 14 in the 2009 calendar section; these pages are of course in French). Karl mentioned that the object seemed likely to have been brighter than the estimated magnitude -4 the analysis software suggested. This event could have been spotted from southern Britain or the Channel Islands, though sadly no reports arrived from here. More fireballs that night were imaged from Italy and Texas, USA – see the General Chat Forum for information.
09/03/4-5 02:54 Very bright; 2 reports; imaged*; NE Lincs & Netherlands Klaas Jobse in the Netherlands was the fortunate imager of the March 4-5 fireball, using his automated all-sky camera system, part of the European Fireball Network. Unfortunately, sky conditions there and in NE Lincolnshire were rather poor – you can see how cloudy it was for Klaas on his image here – so it is probably a measure of the event’s brilliance that it was recorded at all! The start position could not be well-established. It may have been ~100+ km above the Holland-Belgium border north of Antwerp. The end has been more closely constrained, at probably ~80 km altitude over the northwest Netherlands, likely near 52.9°N, 6.2°E. Assistant Meteor Director David Entwistle reported a strong radio-meteor echo was detected at about the key time from four places, two in Belgium, one in England, the other in Northern Ireland. As usual with radio data, we cannot be certain all four observers definitely detected this fireball, but it seems plausible most may have done so.
09/03/10-11 18:45 -5/-10; 23 reports*; S England & S Wales The March 10-11 twilight fireball was reported from sites across southern England and south Wales, east as far as southern Essex, north to Warwickshire and the West Midlands, and west as far as Rhondda Cynon Taf and the south coast of mid Devon. Most of the witnesses were on the road at the time, so regrettably positional information on the object’s flight is very sketchy. The start may have been somewhere high above the upper Severn estuary, around Herefordshire-Worcestershire-Gloucestershire perhaps, and the fireball flew from there probably roughly northeast to southwest, but possibly nearer north to south, most likely ending out over the Channel somewhere between Start Point west to Land’s End. The end especially is little more than a best-guess however, and could have been southwest of Land’s End, or even over land towards the south coasts of Devon or Cornwall instead. The meteor seems to have been quite swift-moving, so it is most unlikely any meteorites will have survived. Five observers reported the object fragmented in mid-flight, but ten others saw no such break-up, possibly because of variable viewing angles to the trail. Various striking colours were noted by different people, commonly blue, green or yellow and white in the head and red, orange or yellow in the tail, plus it may have left a short-lived persistent train. There was a single report of simultaneous sounds heard during the object’s flight from Dorset. Some of the sightings, comments and follow-up notes can be found on the SPA’s Observing Forum.
09/03/15-16 00:10 -8/-12; 2 reports*; Derbys & Wilts Positional information from the witnesses of the 00:10 UT fireball on March 15-16 suggested the object may have followed a roughly south to north trajectory high above Oxfordshire to Northamptonshire, though this is not certain.
09/04/4-5 23:32 +/- 2m -8/-10?; multiple reports*; England, N Ireland, Ireland Three definite sightings from England, and one each from Ireland and Northern Ireland reached the Section on the April 4-5 fireball, made in Merseyside, Worcestershire, Cornwall, Counties Wicklow and Antrim. A further sighting from Buckinghamshire was reported perhaps around 23:00 UT that night, but this was possibly a separate event. The five main ~23:32 UT observations did not allow an especially precise atmospheric track to be estimated for this meteor. However, it is plausible the visible track was oriented between roughly south-north to SW-NE. It probably started over the Bristol Channel/St George’s Channel area, or Pembrokeshire/Carmarthenshire of nearby southern Wales, and ended above SW to central-western Wales or Cardigan Bay. The end could conceivably have been further north, perhaps over the Lleyn Peninsula/Anglesey area, or even above the Irish Sea between Caernarfon Bay to Wicklow/Dublin, though likely closer to the Welsh than the Irish coast if so. Three observers reported quite severe fragmentation later in the flight, which may have happened over SW Wales or the southern Irish Sea between the St David’s Head/southern Cardigan Bay to Carnsore Point/Cahore Point region. Media sources attributed comments to Astronomy Ireland officers that suggested more sightings had been made from elsewhere in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The media notices were not clear always whether this object may have been on April 4-5 or 5-6 unfortunately, and one quote suggested the meteor was moving from the west across central Ireland. Such a path would be wholly inconsistent with the data reported to the SPA, so there may indeed have been a second event involved.
09/04/19-20 ~22:00 Very bright*; Shropshire Although the Lyrids have a reputation for producing bright meteors near their maximum, which was due this year on April 22, the apparent "cluster" of mostly single-station fireball sightings around April 19 to 22 seems to have had relatively little to do with that shower for once. Too little information was available on some to determine a possible origin, but four at least were not Lyrids. The ~22:03 UT event on April 21-22 may have been heading roughly west to east, somewhere across northern England, possibly above Lancashire/Cumbria to North Yorkshire, as a best-estimate.
09/04/19-20 22:56 Bright; seen from indoors*; Denbighshire
09/04/20-21 22:31 -8; Non-LYR*; York
09/04/21-22 21:25 -8; Non-LYR*; Isle of Man
09/04/21-22 ~22:03 Bright; 2 reports*; Non-LYR; Salford & W Yorks
09/04/21-22 00:12 -5; Non-LYR*; Northumberland
09/04/29-30 ~20:00 -10?*; Derbyshire The witness of the April 29-30 event was able to rule-out an Iridium flare being the cause, but the object was unusual as it was seen directly overhead, and was apparently stationary. It may have been a very rare point-source fireball, heading directly towards the observer, but it may have been a reflection from an aircraft window instead, not long after sunset. Further reports might enable the fireball possibility to be confirmed.
09/05/11-12 ~21:35 -9; 12 reports*; Britain Few reports of the May 11-12 fireball, seen from places scattered across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, gave enough detail to allow a possible trajectory for this meteor to be estimated. It may have flown on a very rough south to north track from above eastern England (maybe somewhere over East Anglia/Cambridgeshire) to a point above the North Sea possibly off the Lincolnshire to North Yorkshire coasts, but this is all very uncertain, and the end may even have been over land near those same coastal districts. Half the witnesses reported the fireball was distinctly green, but a few others noted orange, blue or red was present in it instead. Those people who saw most or all the flight indicated the object remained visible for up to three or four seconds. Four early reports were noted on the BBC Scottish News website, but the suggestion there that the fireball may have originated from the Eta Aquarid meteor shower was quite wrong. Most bright fireballs like this belong to no known meteor shower in general, and linking the event by date to a shower with no supporting evidence is a very common misconception. The most critical problem in making such an association in this case is that the Eta Aquarid radiant was still well below the horizon at 21:35 UT, since it rises only after the start of morning twilight even from southern Britain during May.
09/05/26-27 ~22:57-22:58 -3/-5*; Aberdeenshire This SPA Observing Forum topic contains the initial sighting for the May 26-27 fireball, and that for the 22:36 UT fireball on May 28-29.
09/05/28-29 22:36 -3; fragmented*; West Midlands
09/06/15-16 ~20:30 Bright; some media reports*; Guernsey & S England Confused media reports of "meteor showers" on June 15-16 may have been due to just a single bright fireball off the south or southwest coast of England instead. One sighting of a fireball seen to the west from Guernsey was posted among the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum messages discussing this subject here certainly, timed at roughly 20:30 UT. More discussion can be found regarding the event or events that evening on the SPA’s General Chat Forum.
09/07/3-4 22:55 About -6/-7; 3 reports; imaged*; England & Netherlands Klaas Jobse’s all-sky camera caught the image of the July 3-4 fireball, from the Netherlands. It can be seen here, including a close-up of the fireball’s trail. The event was also observed visually from the West Midlands and Kent in England. Some initial details, including comments from one of the lucky observers, are on the Observing Forum. Unfortunately, it was not possible to determine a clear trajectory for the object from these observations, but the meteor was likely out high over the southern North Sea between southeast England and western Holland, probably heading in a direction between roughly southwest-northeast to south-north. It seemed to have been slow-moving, as one visual witness and Klaas’ image, suggested it was visible for around 5 to 6 seconds.
09/07/18-19 23:00-23:05 Brighter than -10; 3 reports*; NW France The impressive fireball on July 18-19 was observed from three sites in Brittany, according to details helpfully provided to the Section by French fireball expert Karl Antier. The object seemed to have travelled from somewhere northwest of Brittany towards the north, so could probably have been seen from southern Britain and the Channel Islands. No reports from these places were received, however. Notes on the initial sightings (in French) can be found here.
09/08/21-22 22:43 Brighter than -3*; West Midlands See the Observing Forum for the original report of the August 21-22 fireball.
09/08/27-28 00:45-00:50 Bright*; Belfast Initial notes on the August 27-28 fireball are available here on the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum.
09/09/3-4 20:00-20:15 Very bright; media reports*; Ireland The BBC News website had a few initial comments on the September 3-4 fireball seen from parts of Ireland.
09/10/13-14 ~18:00 Brilliant; imaged*; Netherlands Although not reported from Britain, the October 13-14 fireball attracted much attention in the Netherlands. Links to the images and the trajectory estimated by the Dutch Meteor Society are on the Observing Forum.
09/10/22-23 ~19:20 Brighter than -3*; Devon Some details of the October 22-23 fireball were reported on the SPA’s Observing Forum.
09/11/11-12 ~06:40 -3/-4*; Hampshire The first information received on the November 11-12 fireball was given here on the Observing Forum.
09/11/16-17 05:47 >-13; 2 reports; LEO; imaged*; Lancs & Co Londonderry The brilliant 05:47 UT Leonid fireball on November 16-17 left a very persistent train for about ten minutes, which was imaged by Martin McKenna in Northern Ireland, who was concluding his night’s meteor watching at the time. Some of the images he secured can be viewed on the Leonids topic of the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum.
09/11/21-22 00:57 Brighter than -5; imaged*; Co Armagh A video and further details on the November 21-22 fireball, which was imaged by two automated cameras at Armagh Observatory, can be found on the Armagh website. Two radio meteor observers, one each in England and Northern Ireland, also recorded an unusually strong, persistent radio-meteor echo beginning at the time the fireball occurred, signals which were likely related to this very bright meteor.
09/12/3-4 20:00 +/- 5m Roughly -9; 11 reports*; S England Some early notes on the ~20:00 UT December 3-4 fireball, with links to a few of the initial sightings, can be found on the Observing Forum. Reports of this fireball were received from Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Berkshire, West Sussex and West London. The information derived from them was a little sketchy, but the observations suggested the fireball’s start was around 90-100 km altitude, somewhere above a rough area bounded to the east and west by the western Isle of Wight and the Bournemouth area of Dorset respectively, or a point up to ~15 km north or south of this approximate line. The end could not be firmly-established, but may have lain within about 40 km of a point roughly midway between Bridport and Dorchester in Dorset, perhaps around 50 to 60 km altitude. If correct, this would suggest a crude flight direction aligned somewhere between east-west to southeast-northwest. Estimates for the visible duration averaged ~4 seconds, but this could have been longer, maybe up to six or seven seconds, as not all witnesses saw the entire track. Six reports of some fragmentation during the object’s flight were received, with colours varying from green or green-white (five reports), to blue-white or orange-yellow (two reports each), or yellow (one sighting). One observer suggested orange was present in its tail, while a group elsewhere indicated it was likely the fragments that were orange, and a short-lived train may have persisted afterwards (two sightings). It is possible there were two other UK-visible fireballs that evening, one around 19:20 UT, the other perhaps near 20:30, plus a fourth event within half an hour of 22:30, as given in the table above (seen from Dorset, but by a witness who unluckily missed the ~20:00 meteor). Details on the ~19:20 and ~20:30 meteors remained unconfirmed, however.
09/12/3-4 22:30 +/- 30m Very bright – cast shadows*; Dorset
09/12/16-17 02:42 -7/-8; GEM*; Co Londonderry The original observation of the December 16-17 Geminid fireball can be found on the second page of comments for the "Geminids 2009" topic of the UK Weather World’s Space Weather Forum.
09/12/17-18 ~04:10-04:15 Bright*; Derbyshire See the Observing Forum’s topic on the December 3-4 fireball for the observing notes regarding the December 17-18 fireball. The two events were unrelated.
09/12/19 ~12:45 -15/-20; in daylight; 13 reports*; Central & E England Sightings of the spectacular daylight fireball on December 19 were received from places in southern Yorkshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, though as many witnesses were on the road at the time, few people managed to give sufficient information to allow a reasonable trajectory for the event to be estimated. However, the fireball was probably high above the North Sea off eastern England and perhaps partly over northeastern East Anglia too. A majority of the observations suggested the meteor’s atmospheric trajectory was probably angled somewhere between north-south to northwest-southeast (though three reports favoured the opposite south-north to southeast-northwest direction-range instead). It seemed to have remained visible for about 3 to 3.5 seconds from most estimates, and was almost certainly well in excess of full Moon brilliance at its brightest to be seen so widely in the near-noon daytime. Various colours were suggested by different witnesses, always a subjective topic anyway, but most (five people) favoured a very bright silvery white, while one each preferred yellow, orange-yellow or red-yellow for the main fireball. One witness spotted some slight fragmentation very late in the flight, but two other people saw none at all (this can sometimes depend on the angle from which the meteor’s path is viewed). One observer in north Norfolk, plausibly the person closest to the possible trajectory, suggested a faint simultaneous sound may have occurred as the fireball flared to its near-terminal maximum brightness. The General Chat Forum has a topic featuring some of the initial notices and subsequent discussion regarding this fireball, including links to the online media coverage (but sadly no images). Grateful thanks are due to Assistant Meteor Director David Entwistle, and Len Entwisle, for helping to round-up some of the sightings not submitted directly.