More than 200 reports have surfaced from residents in Scotland and Northern Ireland of a mysterious “fireball” crossing the night sky.
They described the event as “unbelievable” and “stunning”, posting videos on social media of a brightly lit object flying at a downward angle followed by a huge tail.
The UK Meteor Network said it began receiving reports of a fireball being spotted at about 9pm on Wednesday (14 September).
The network told NationalWorld that so far they know the event was a “slow-moving meteor lasting 20 or so seconds” and “suspect it could be space junk as it was moving very slowly.”
What have people said who saw it?
Danny Nell, 21, was walking his dog in Johnstone, just west of Paisley and Glasgow, when he saw the fireball.
He told the PA news agency: “I was walking my dog and it was strangely enough 10pm on the dot, and I just saw the flash in the sky and pulled out my phone and recorded it.
“I thought it may be a firework at first because there was a lot of Scottish football on but quickly realised it wasn’t and just grabbed my phone to see if I could catch it.”
Meanwhile Rhiannon Hayes, a Twitter user, said in a video now going viral: “Did I legit just see a shooting star in Motherwell or is that something crashing out the sky?”
Several comments followed the video with many sharing a video from the same time in different locations.
Some users who witnessed the astronomical sighting said they have never seen anything like this before.
One user said: “Yep, spotted in central Glasgow about 30 mins ago - much bigger than anything I have ever seen before.”
Another added: “I just seen it in Glasgow around 10pm!! Never seen anything like it!”
Steve Owens, astronomer and science communicator at the Glasgow Science Centre, saw the fireball as it passed over Scotland on Wednesday evening.
He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “It was incredible. I was sitting in my living room at exactly 10 o’clock last night and saw out of the window, due south, this brilliant fireball, this meteor streaking across the sky, and I could tell that it was something special because I could see through broken cloud.
“It wasn’t perfectly visible; I could see that it was fragmenting, breaking apart, there were little bits coming off it.
“And normally, if you see a meteor or a shooting star, they are just tiny little streaks of light, they last for a fraction of a second.
“This one was streaking across the sky for at least 10 seconds – probably longer than that – and it travelled from due south all the way across to the west, so it was a pretty incredible sight.”
Did the meteorite land?
Mr Owens said it is possible it could have landed but added it is “highly unlikely” that it landed in Scotland.
He said: “Normally these tiny little streaks of light, these little shooting stars, they all burn up and everything just vanishes and evaporates in the atmosphere, but the thing last night was bigger than a little bit of dust.
“The one last night might have been the size of a golf ball or maybe a cricket ball, maybe bigger than that, so it’s certainly not impossible that bits could have landed.
“It looked like it was travelling a fair distance, as these things do, and it was fairly flat across the sky as I saw it.”
Mr Owens explained how he thought it was heading towards the west, adding: “Given that people in Northern Ireland were reporting seeing it, it could well have passed over land and ended up in the Atlantic, but it’s certainly not impossible that it landed – finding it will be the challenge.”
What has the UK’s Meteor Network said?
The UK Meteor Network, a group with a network of 170 detection cameras recording meteors and fireballs over the UK, said they are “investigating to ascertain what the object was — a meteor or space debris”.
Mr Owens said: “The UK Meteor Network, which has had hundreds of reports from around Scotland and further afield, is going to be able to triangulate all of those reports to work out its trajectory.”