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Mystery of giant fireball lights up social media in Northern Ireland

By Ricky Thompson

Published 28/04/2015

A mysterious fireball set social media ablaze as hundreds took to Twitter to report a bright object falling from the sky.

Shortly after 10pm on Sunday night the first queries started popping up on the internet with some speculation about what the fiery sphere was.

@xBobbyJean was one of the first to Tweet, saying: "Just saw what seemed to be a fireball travelling southwards across the sky - odd! Did anyone else see it? #Belfast.

Many were quick to joke of an alien invasion of a foreign military attack but others realised they had witnessed a spectacular meteor, according to Tolis Christou from the Armagh Observatory.

"Judging from its brightness, I would say it was a chunk of rock, about the size of a grapefruit, independently orbiting the Sun until it had a misfortune of coming across our planet", he said.

"Upon entering the atmosphere, friction - air molecules bouncing off it - caused it to heat up and glow. This light that we see from the ground is what we call a meteor. Eventually, the intense heat caused it to vaporise completely before reaching the ground.

"It appeared to emanate from the vicinity of the constellations Draco the Dragon and Ursa Major (Big Dipper). If we were to stay up all night every night, we would expect to see one as bright as that every month approximately. The casual observer would probably see one every year."

Mr Christou said that by judging from its apparent path across the sky, this event was not related to the Lyrid meteor shower which peaked on April 22/23. At peak activity this shower produces 15 or 20 meteors per hour.

Reports of the fireball weren't limited to Northern Ireland, as residents of Dublin, Galway and others in Scotland shared their visual experiences.

@John_dryden85: "Was out with the telescope looking at the moon and Jupiter conjunction and just looked up and caught it. Motherwell Scotland."

@chuck1985: "Spotted it North-East of Belclare (Galway), #meteor #greenfireball"

@sinisterenda: "Spotted it from Donegal, seemed to break into two."

@FTA_NI: "Saw it, NE over Belfast, I thought it was a firework as that bright and close."

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