'Meteor shower' over Northern Ireland 'space junk'

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A suspected meteor shower spotted in the skies above Northern Ireland was probably space junk, experts have said.

Dr Tim O'Brien, associate director of the Jodrell Bank Observatory, said the lights could have been from a bigger chunk of something that burned out.

On Friday night, people reported seeing bright orange lights on the north coast, at Strangford Lough and in Dublin.

Dr O'Brien said this was probably "orbital debris from satellites".

"They are still moving fast. They are 18,000 miles an hour, not that slow," he told BBC Radio 4.

"But a little bit slower than the rocks and meteorites that come from farther out in space."

Up to 20 bright orange objects were seen. Some people reported hearing a loud noise after they passed.

"I was out in my garden experimenting with taking a few shots of the stars when an amazing fireball came into view, breaking up into many bright pieces and moving quite slowly across the sky directly overhead," said Colin Campbell from Lisburn.

"I have a casual interest in astronomy and have never seen the likes of it before. It really was quite stunning, like a slow moving firework. After I picked my jaw up, I quickly swung my camera up and got this pot shot, a five second exposure at 10:55pm.

Image caption,
The fireball was seen by Colin Campbell in the skies over Lisburn

"The fireball was travelling directly east to west and overhead. The image shows it grazing the star Alpheratz, the top left star in the The Great Square of Pegasus.

Colin Johnston of Armagh Planetarium said a meteor shower was not expected.

"It could be a bit of natural space junk which has been floating around the universe for billions of years, or it could be a man-made satellite which has burned up," he said.

"It will be a while before we know for sure what has happened."

Sightings were also reported on Friday evening in parts of central Scotland including Edinburgh and Glasgow, the Midlands and East Anglia.

Shetland coastguard said they received what is thought to be Scotland's most northerly sighting of the meteor.

One person rang them just after 23:00 BST, reporting a bright white light in the sky over the Stacks of Duncansby in Caithness.

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