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Up to £10,000 for pieces of fireball that blazed over Ireland

Meteorite hunters could earn up to £10,000 for the recovery of pieces of the fireball that blazed across Ireland's skies last week.

Up to 70,000 people from across Northern Ireland and the Republic witnessed the spectacle, which happened at around 6pm on Wednesday night.

It is thought the fireball was a space rock travelling at 100,000 miles per hour, or the equivalent of a small atomic bomb blast in the skies.

David Moore of Astronomy Ireland said it was likely to have landed on the ground and not at sea as many witnesses who saw it along the coast said it was travelling inland.

“Donegal seems to be the most likely drop area,” he said. “At this stage there is a 50/50 chance that Donegal is the correct county, so if you are living in Donegal you should be going on long country walks and keeping your eyes peeled.”

Robert Elliot, the only full-time meteorite hunter in the UK, says that if meteorites have landed in Northern Ireland or the Republic and are of a rare enough type, they could command up to £10,000 per kilo among avid collectors and dealers across the world.

Mr Elliot, from Scotland, says that as the potential fall was partially witnessed by many people — from Co Londonderry to Co Cork — any debris picked up will be of special interest to enthusiasts.

“The UK and Ireland is a small target area in the grand scheme of things and for pieces to land here is quite rare,” he said.

“The last meteorite found in the UK was in 2005.”

Pieces of the Bovedy meteorite, which hurtled into Northern Ireland in 1969, are spread across collections all over the world and command high prices. Rocks which broke apart on entering the atmosphere landed in Bovedy near Garvagh and through the roof of an RUC store in Sprucefield.

It is the only known case where a meteorite fall was recorded on audio — a woman taping birdsong in her garden captured the sonic boom as the meteorites flew to earth.

Mr Elliot successfully offered a reward to the finders of the last meteorite to land in Ireland over 10 years ago.

“Back then I offered £20,000 but I am sure people will understand that there is a recession on now,” he said.

“A shooting star was seen and loud bangs were picked up over Carlow Town in November 1999.

“I put a story in the local paper and in the end I was sent several pieces and I bought them all. This was the Leighlinbridge meteorite.

“I donate pieces to science. If you find one piece, there are always more — up to 1000 sometimes.”

He says that to avoid being deluged by hopeful rock hunters, he demands small experiments be carried out.

“The meteorite will look like a rock, but it will be full of metal. It will have a dark coat called a fusion crust as a result of having been burned when entering the atmosphere.

“I would ask for people to use a diamond file to gently rub the crust off, and if it is whitish grey underneath, like iron filings, then they may be on to something. I would ask people to also take a magnet with them to determine if there is iron in the sample. It will be cold and there will not be a massive crater, just a small hole, if anything.

“It will have landed with the same speed as a golf ball coming out of the air — and if there is suddenly a hole in your roof and the rain is coming in, get searching.”

If you think you have found part of the meteorite, contact Robert on fernlea4@aol.com

Do you have photos or video of the giant fireball? Email us at digital.editorial@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

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