A meteor was seen by hundreds of people across the UK last night.
The UK Fireball Alliance and the UK Meteor Observation Network confirmed the event as reports on social media saw a “bright blue-green fireball” in the sky.
The amateur astronomer groups had over 700 reports sent in and 100 Twitter sightings, with some managing to capture the meteor shower on doorbell and dashboard cameras.
This is the latest of several meteor sightings in the UK this year.
What is a meteoroid, meteor shower and a fireball meteor?
A meteoroid is an object in space that varies in size from small grains to metre-wide objects, and is known as a space rock. While they are significantly smaller than asteroids, anything smaller than a meteoroid is known as space dust.
When a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere and speeds up, it can look like a fireball or a shooting star, like the one seen last night - this is a meteor. The bright light seen in the sky is the glowing hot air surrounding the rock and can range from red to blue in colour.
NASA scientists estimate that about 44 tonnes of meteoritic material falls on the Earth each day, but is mostly vapourised by the Earth’s atmosphere so it looks like shooting stars.
If the number of meteors seen falling in an hour increases, it becomes a meteor shower, which is seen annually or at regular intervals in the Earth’s orbit as it passes through debris from disintegrated comets.
What was the meteor sighting last night?
People in London, Birmingham, Cambridgeshire and Cornwall reported seeing a fireball in the sky last night at 9.44pm.
The meteor was travelling south to north over the Dover area and lasted about six seconds.
Some were able to capture the fireball on video, with one person sharing a clip on Twitter that her doorbell camera recorded.
Another Twitter user said the meteor was “bright blue-green, slowly falling and breaking up…it was amazing,” while astronomer and author William Gater claimed it to be a “bolide meteor” which is exceptionally bright.
Before yesterday’s sighting, there were reports on social media of another “bright green” meteor shower on 12 May seen from Manchester, London, Southampton and Birmingham. The two sightings are part of a shower called Eta Aquarids.
How rare are meteor sightings and is there another one expected soon?
Several thousand fireballs fall frequently into the Earth’s surface, however only a small percentage are seen as they fall over oceans, uninhabited areas and are masked by daylight.
Scientists estimate that 10 to 50 meteor showers happen each day, but due to these factors, only a handful of witnessed meteorites are seen a year.
The most common meteor shower sighting happens in mid-August, known as the Perseids, which is part of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. This will involve many fast meteors with trains following behind them.
Tania de Sales Marques, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, said there is an active meteor shower at the moment, associated with Comet Halley, and will last until May 28.