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Astronomie - UK meteor: huge flash as fireball lights up skies -Update

1.03.2021

Very bright meteor, known as a fireball, was captured on doorbell cameras across the country

2021-02-28-uk-fireball

 
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Large meteor 'fireball' blazes across the UK, lighting up skies – video
 
 

A large meteor blazed across UK skies on Sunday night, delighting those lucky enough to spot it.

The meteor was spotted shortly before 10pm and was visible for around seven seconds. It was captured on doorbell and security cameras in Manchester, Cardiff, Honiton, Bath, Midsomer Norton and Milton Keynes.

 

The UK meteor network, a group of amateur astronomers that has been using cameras to record meteor sightings across the UK since 2012, said the meteor was a fireball, and wrote on Twitter, “From the two videos we saw it was a slow moving meteor with clearly visible fragmentation.”

Meteors are space matter burning up as they enter the earth’s atmosphere. Fireballs are particularly bright meteors that in theory might be visible in daylight. According to the American Meteor Society (AMS), fireballs are generally a magnitude -4, as bright as the planet Venus when seen in the evening or morning. A full moon is magnitude -12.6 while the sun is -26.7.

The AMS said that while “several thousand meteors of fireball magnitude occur in the Earth’s atmosphere each day”, most fall over the ocean or uninhabited areas.

The UK meteor network group said more than 120 people had reported seeing Sunday night’s meteor.

One Twitter user wrote of the fireball: “I first thought it was a bright star or plane, then it got bigger & faster, then a huge flash lit up the sky & it burst into a massive tail of orange sparks trailing behind like a giant firework!”

Also on Twitter, there were alien jokes, with references to Superman, The Day of the Triffids, Men in Black and War of the Worlds.

Others joked that it was revenge for Nasa’s Perseverance rover landing on Mars last week. The rover shared images and the first ever recording of what it sounds like on the red planet.

One user offered to prepare any arriving aliens a full english breakfast.

Quelle: The Guardian

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Update: 2.03.2021

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Meteorites may be just north of Cheltenham

The hunt is on for meteorite fragments that are likely to have fallen to Earth over England on Sunday night.

Many people across Northern Europe saw a fireball in the sky shortly before 22:00 GMT, and the streak of light was also caught on special cameras.

Scientists think some pieces will have survived the intense heat of atmospheric entry and hit the ground.

A computer model that analysed the camera data suggests the probable site of impact is just north of Cheltenham.

"We can track the fireball really well, but the 'black magic' starts when it goes dark - when the light goes out and it still has another 10-20km to reach the ground," explained Dr Ashley King from the UK Fireball Alliance (UKFAll) and London's Natural History Museum (NHM).

"Strong winds can blow the object off course of where you think it's going to land, and that's what we're working on now. But, yes, somewhere north of Cheltenham, out towards Stow-on-the-Wold," he told BBC News.

 
Likely fall zone
image captionThe camera data indicates a favourable fall zone

The fireball produced a sonic boom as it hurtled across the southern England sky. Eyewitness accounts describe the object breaking up into several defined streaks just before going dark.

Any fragments that made it to the ground will be small, smaller than an orange, say, and are likely to be dark and shiny.

Anyone who finds what they think might be a meteorite is asked to photograph it in situ, noting the GPS co-ordinates from a phone, if that's possible.

The object should then be bagged without direct handling. And the absolute no-no: do not put a magnet near the object. This could destroy important information needed to study the rock.

"We've learned over the years that most meteorites carry a kind of intrinsic magnetic record within them from when they were in space," said Dr King.

"We can actually study that and learn about where these things came from and how they formed. But if you put a magnet on the object, it's a little bit like wiping your credit card with a magnet. We lose all of that information."

 
28 Feb fireball
IMAGE COPYRIGHTUKMON
image captionThe object produced a sonic boom

Some of the trajectory work from the camera data has already suggested the object originated in the outer asteroid belt, which is between Mars and Jupiter.

"Most of the asteroids further away from the Sun tend to be these carbonaceous type that have got water and volatile materials in them but until we actually get our hands on some fragments, we can't say for certain," Dr King told BBC News.

Scientists from the UKFAll and meteorite experts from the universities of Glasgow and Manchester and the NHM are interested to hear from anyone who thinks they may have found something of interest.

Even if you just have a photo or video of the event, the researchers request you upload and share it.

Between 10 and 20 meteorites are estimated to fall to the ground in the UK each year, but it's rare that any fragments are actually picked up.

The last recovered fall was in 1991 - the so called Glatton Meteorite, because it fell in the village of Glatton near Peterborough.

 

Mr Arthur Pettifor was tending his onions in his garden when a 10cm rock fell into his hedge.

Arthur Pettifor
image captionMr Pettifor would show off the Glatton Meteorite at the village fete
Quelle: BBC
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Meteorites from sky fireball 'likely to be found near Cheltenham'

Computer modelling suggests fragments of space debris may have landed outside Gloucestershire town

Screen grab from a video taken with permission from the Twitter feed of @JillHemingway of a fireball that lit up the skies over the UK on Sunday night - taken from Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire
 
00:39
Large meteor 'fireball' blazes across the UK, lighting up skies – video
 
Natalie GroverScience correspondent

 

 
 
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The yellow-green fireball that pierced Earth’s atmosphere on Sunday night, delighting observers from the UK to the Netherlands, is thought to have partially survived the journey in the form of meteorites, most likely landing just north of Cheltenham.

Fireballs are particularly bright meteors – space matter that burns up as it enters Earth’s atmosphere. Whatever is left of it when it reaches the surface of the Earth is known as a meteorite. They are of particular interest to scientists as they can offer crucial clues about the history of the solar system.

 

Richard Kacerek, founder of the UK meteor network, a group of amateur astronomers who have been using cameras to record sightings across the UK since 2012, said computer modelling suggested the probable site of the meteor’s impact was just north of the Gloucestershire town.

Roughly 50 tonnes of extraterrestrial material enters the Earth’s atmosphere each year, mainly in the form of sand-sized particles called space dust. In the UK, about 20 meteorites – barely the size of sugar cubes – are estimated to land each year. The last recovered meteorite fall was in 1991 in the village of Glatton near Peterborough.

Brighter fireballs have been sighted in the past, said Kacerek. “What makes this particular fireball really special is that we think that something has actually survived.”

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Ashley King, of the Natural History Museum in London, said in a statement: “The video recordings tell us its speed was about 30,000mph, which is too fast for it to be human-made ‘space junk’, so it’s not an old rocket or satellite.

“The videos also allowed us to reconstruct its original orbit around the sun. In this case, the orbit was like an asteroid’s. This particular piece of asteroid spent most of its orbit between Mars and Jupiter, though sometimes got closer to the sun than Earth is.”

Basing their predictions on footage from multiple specialised fireball cameras, the observers concluded that smaller-than-golf-ball sized pieces of dark-coloured fragmented rock pieces would be found, Kacerek said, adding that it was still unclear to which comet the meteor belonged.

“We have already received a few emails from people in the area, saying that they found something interesting,” he added, noting that those sightings still needed to be verified by scientists from the Natural History Museum.

If people come across pieces of meteorite, scientists said, they should first photograph it in place and note the location using their phone’s GPS, but avoid touching it directly. Meteorites are usually rich in iron, but using a magnet could damage the sample – Kacerek suggested picking it up using a clean plastic bag.

 
UK meteor: 'huge flash' as fireball lights up skies
 

The UK public should remember that the lockdown was still in place, and people should not break restrictions to look for meteorites, he cautioned.

One of the biggest draws of examining meteorites is a theory called panspermia: that the chemistry of life exists in space.

Astronomical research has found the building blocks of life in the atmospheres of distant planets and interstellar clouds, and even more complicated compounds in meteorites. Given that life on Earth began at least 3.8bn years ago and the leap from organic chemistry to self-replicating organisms is so vast, some astronomers propose that life might have been delivered by a passing comet.

“It is certainly a theory, but I think it is a very likely theory,” said Kacerek. “We don’t know much about it [the meteor from Sunday] yet. But certainly … setting up a meteor camera, recording the meteorite and then going and pick it up will help answer those questions.”

On Sunday night, Kacerek’s own three cameras did not detect the fireball. “But when I saw the pictures, I said, ‘Holy …’ I knew what it meant,” he said. “Because it meant … that I have to get up at 6 o’clock and talk to media all day.”

Quelle: The Guardian

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Update: 9.03.2021

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Gloucestershire meteorite is first UK find in 30 years

-117497348-winchcombe-meteorite-credit-trustee-of-the-natural-history-museum

The Winchcombe fragments total in excess of 300g

Several rocky fragments have been recovered from the fireball that lit up the sky above southern England just over a week ago.

They came down in the Winchcombe area of Gloucestershire.

A householder first alerted experts after noticing a pile of charred stone on his driveway. Other members of the public have since come forward with their own finds.

It's 30 years since meteorite material was last retrieved in the UK.

Researchers are particularly thrilled because of the rarity of the rock type.

Driveway pileIMAGE COPYRIGHTANONYMOUS
image captionThe anonymous driveway owner has donated his find to science

It's carbonaceous chondrite - a stony material that retains unaltered chemistry from the formation of our Solar System 4.6 billion years ago.

 

Dr Ashley King from London's Natural History Museum (NHM) said nothing like it had ever been recorded in the UK before.

"Carbonaceous chondrites are particularly special because they are essentially the left-over building blocks of our Solar System.

"Many contain simple organics and amino acids; some of them contain minerals formed by water - so, all the ingredients are there for understanding how you make a habitable planet such as the Earth," he told BBC News.

 
PhD student Áine O'Brien is shown some fragmentsIMAGE COPYRIGHTNATASHA STEPHEN (@EMC_PLYMUNI)
image captionThe thrill of it: It's difficult to overstate the importance of this find

Thousands of people reported seeing a blazing light rush across the sky at 21:54 GMT on Sunday 28 February. But, crucially, the event was also captured on the array of special cameras operated by the UK Fireball Alliance (UKFAll).

Their information was able to pinpoint the likely area of debris fall.

"Somewhere north of Cheltenham, over towards Stow-On-The-Wold", was the prediction. This would still have been "a needle in a haystack" quest, but researchers were in luck.

 

Some of the meteorite had smashed down on to a Winchcombe resident's front drive.

media caption"When I looked in the plastic bag my legs went wobbly"

Dr Richard Greenwood was despatched to see the Winchcombe resident, who wishes to be anonymous.

"I looked in this plastic bag he'd been told to put it in, and my legs went wobbly. It was unbelievable. This is a very special meteorite," the Open University researcher recalled.

A search team was immediately sent out to comb the local area for more fragments. And, in the meantime, other property owners started notifying scientists of their discoveries, too.

All told, there must be 300-400g of material, most of it now lodged with the NHM.

The pieces are small - marble-sized. Prof Monica Grady, also from the OU, describes them as looking like "a broken barbecue briquette. It is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen", she told BBC News.

 
Field searchIMAGE COPYRIGHTGLASGOW UNIVERSITY
image captionThe speed of response will have limited contamination of the samples

It's hard to overstate just how significant this is for British meteoritic science.

Of the approximately 65,000 meteorites in collections worldwide, only 1,206 had eyewitnesses to their fall, and of these only 51 are of the carbonaceous chondrite type.

Because this fireball was tracked via camera on entry to Earth's atmosphere, its orbit has been worked out. The object came from the outer asteroid belt, out towards Jupiter.

Fragments in bagIMAGE COPYRIGHTNATASHA STEPHEN (@EMC_PLYMUNI)
image captionA huge research effort will now be focused on the Winchcombe haul

This means its composition almost certainly will be very primitive.

"Basically, that's part of the Solar System we regard as like a deep freeze of material that's 4.5 billion years old," explained the NHM's Prof Sara Russell.

"It hasn't had a chance to change at all from pre-planetary time. It will give us an insight into what our Solar System was like before the planets were there."

media captionThousands of people reported seeing the fireball

The American and Japanese space agencies have despatched probes to bring back similar material from the asteroids themselves. But the Winchcombe meteorite would make almost as good a subject for study, said Dr Greenwood.

"Yes, it will have been affected by passage through the atmosphere, but it must be very close to pristine. The chap in Winchcombe who collected it did so within 12 hours of falling. It's as good as you will ever get collected here on Earth."

Map

The last space rock fall recovered in the UK was in 1991 - the so called Glatton Meteorite, because it fell in the village of Glatton near Peterborough.

Mr Arthur Pettifor was tending his onions in his garden when a 10cm rock dropped into his hedge.

It's quite possible more fragments of the Winchcombe meteorite still await discovery.

Richard GreenwoodIMAGE COPYRIGHTOPEN UNIVERSITY
image captionRichard Greenwood with another fragment picked up in nearby Woodmancote

Scientists urge people in the local area to remain vigilant. They should be looking for small blackish stones, or even a mound of dark dust.

Anyone who finds what they think might be a meteorite is asked to photograph it in situ, noting the GPS co-ordinates from a phone, if that's possible.

The object should then be placed in foil without direct handling. And the absolute no-no: do not put a magnet near the material. This could destroy important information needed to study the rock.

The Winchcombe investigation has also included scientists from the universities of Glasgow, Manchester, Plymouth, and Imperial College London.

Field searchIMAGE COPYRIGHTGLASGOW UNIVERSITY
image captionScience bounty: Nothing like it has ever been recorded in the UK before
 Quelle: BBC
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