On September the 21st at 22:54 a fireball was seen across the UK skies from as far south as Kent all the way up to Scotland. There were even reported sightings in Scandinavia. The fireball traveled from south east to north west and it lasted approximately 30 seconds.
I was one of a handful of people who managed to capture an image of this incredibly rare event.
That weekend myself and my girlfriend Charlotte had booked a short break to New Galloway, Dumfries and Galloway. It was Charlottes birthday so I decided to buy her a present. Her very first telescope. We had planned to indulge in some wildlife photography, scenic walks & some scotch whisky. When planning our weekend away, I discovered that our hotel was only minutes away from the UK’s only dark sky park so it was decided that as it was such a lovely clear evening, we would make our way over to do some stargazing.
We were absolutely amazed by what we could see. Not only with Charlotte’s new scope, but with just our eyes. It really was astonishing, however nothing could prepare us for what we were about to witness.
We had been out for only about 40 minutes, it was incredibly cold, nobody else was around and I could almost taste that scotch whisky back at the hotel bar. As I turned to Charlotte to tell her to start packing up, she screamed out “Thomas! Look! Look!”.
With haste I turned around. I was expecting to see one of 2 things. A deer stag too close for comfort or a psychopath… too close for comfort. I did not expect to see what looked like a terrifying plane crash heading straight for us. Of course, this could not be what this light was. The fireball was blue, red and green in colour with dazzling sparks flying off it, so bright it lit up the entire car park. Immediately I knew we were witnessing something special. In awe, we watched this extraordinary fireball cross the sky.
“CAMERA!!” I sprinted across the car park, grappled with my tripod and hit the shutter. I had no time to change any settings, however my previous shot was the Milky Way so I knew I stood half a chance of capturing something. It was a long 30 seconds, but when I viewed my screen I knew I had captured a very rare and special event.
The meteor went viral and exploded all over the UK media. It had caused chaos, prompting 999 calls up and down the country. This image was published in 7 national newspapers including a half page print in The Sunday Times.
I will never forget this wonderful evening. If you want dark skies, then you need to visit this location.
So what was the fireball? “Initial media reports did include the suggestion that it may have been a man-made “space junk”. However, most satellites travel in a general west to east direction. This fireball was seen to be travelling from east to west and therefore is very unlikely to have been a satellite re-entry. It was almost certainly a space “rock” entering the Earth’s atmosphere and breaking up.” Tony Markham
Director, SPA Meteor Section