Norfolk astronomer suspects ‘meteor’ was space junk

PUBLISHED: 07:35 24 September 2012

Astronomer Mark Thompson at Seething Observatory.

Astronomer Mark Thompson at Seething Observatory.

Archant © 2010

The bright object seen above Norfolk on Friday night was probably ‘space junk’ rather than a meteor, according to a local astronomer.

Readers contacted the EDP from Norwich, Fakenham, Weasenham, Surlingham, Dereham, Blakeney, Saxlingham Thorpe, Attleborough, King’s Lynn and Holt describing a green-coloured light in the sky, with two smaller fragments behind it, around 11pm.

But Diss-based Mark Thompson, presenter of the BBC programme Stargazing Live, said the fireball was probably a chunk of space debris, known as space junk.

He said that the different colours described by observers on Twitter and on the EDP website were not characteristic of a meteor, which is normally a white-ish colour.

He felt that the space junk, which are pieces of man-made material such as satellites, would have exploded in mid-air over the Atlantic.

But he added: “It was nice that people had a chance to see it, and because it was in the evening they got a chance to.”

But people from across the region were still excited and curious about what they saw.

David Marris, a former pilot from Blakeney, was one of the first observers to contact the EDP to report the sighting as he was taking his dogs out at 10.55pm on Friday.

He described the sighting as “so colourful”, and added: “I have never seen any thing like it, and I will never see any thing like it again.”

And Alan Gardiner, who was near Attleborough, said in an email: “At first I thought it was one of the C5s going into Mildenhall as it looked at first like the landing lights shining through the clouds.

“I have worked through the night for many years and this is by far the biggest show that I have seen. I can only describe this as spectacular and absolutely breathtaking.”

Staff at the Kielder Observatory, in Northumberland, took to the social media website Twitter to discuss what they described as “a huge fireball” and “an incredible object”.

The observatory tweeted: “This was big, trajectory went from east, south east and headed to the west, broke up over west coast, many fragments.

“Many, many fragments, maybe in excess of 100 pieces started green went yellow, no sound but long obvious termination lasted 20-30 seconds.”

Some social media users also took to Twitter to dub the bright light Canary’s Comet because of its vivid green colour, but experts have also ruled out the possibility of it being a comet.

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