'Green flash' meteor sighting reports across Britain
- 17 March 2016
- From the section UK
A bright meteor has been sighted over Britain in the early hours.
Witnesses have described the object as a green flash moving south to north for a few seconds, leaving a magnesium-white trail.
Sightings have been reported in locations including London, Hampshire, Stafford and on the east coast of England at 03:16 GMT.
Its colour has prompted people on Twitter to describe it as the St Patrick's Day meteor.
Describing the meteor as "spectacular", Dr John Mason of the British Astronomical Association said it was bright enough to be categorised as a fireball.
He believes it was a piece of cosmic rock which almost certainly came from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
He said the green colour was caused by the meteor heating up the oxygen in the earth's atmosphere.
"Meteors of this kind are not uncommon," he added, saying he estimated there was at least one a week over the UK.
Richard Kacerek, from the UK Meteor Observation Network, told the BBC it had received reports from across the country.
He said the network's camera at Church Crookham in Hampshire had captured the meteor from the west.
"This is the biggest meteor sighting we have recorded," Mr Kacerek said.
"It lasted for a few seconds. It was seen for hundreds of miles. We have received a number of emails."
He said the network of astronomy enthusiasts recorded about 10 to 15 meteors every year.
An astronomer at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth, Dr Karen Masters, said thousands of these objects hit the Earth every day.
She said: "Most of them over the oceans or over uninhabited parts of the world. It is quite rare that one goes over such a populated place and be so bright."
She said the size of this meteor would depend on its velocity but it was probably as big as a tennis ball.
- Meteors are small rocks or particles of debris, mostly no larger than a grain of sand, which burn up as they enter Earth's atmosphere at high speed
- On entering the atmosphere, these particles heat the air around them, causing the light which can be seen from the ground
- To be called a fireball the meteor has to appear brighter than the planet Venus
- Meteors can be travelling through the atmosphere at speeds between 8 and 40 miles per second
- If a meteor survives the passage through the atmosphere and impacts with the Earth's surface, it is then called a meteorite
Source: British Astronomical Association