Thousands of people in south-west England reported watching a huge fireball cross the night sky on the evening of Sunday, March 15, 1998. Police and other emergency services were swamped by alarmed callers, some of whom thought an aircraft had exploded or that a bomb had been detonated.
According to UK researcher Gerry Lovell, "My local station, Westward TV, announced that the meteor, if that is what it was, was visible from Cornwall (extreme south-west of England) to the South Wales coast.
"A local astronomer was interviewed and he claimed it was a fragment of a much larger meteorite that probably disintegrated some 60 miles above the earth's surface. A possible fragment has been located but he didn't disclose just where."
Ian Darlington sent excerpts from a story in the Western Morning News of March 17, written by Gloria Schofield.
"A meteor explosion above the Westcountry lit up the sky with a lightning flash and a firework-like cascade of sparks," Schofield wrote. "The meteor crashed into the atmosphere above North Devon on Sunday night and burned up in a spectacular display. Hundreds of witnesses contacted police and the emergency services after seeing the sky suddenly light up at 7pm on Sunday.
"Two or three minutes later came a 'sonic boom' of rumbling noises, and for around 10 minutes white smoke lingered high in the sky."
Geologist Dr .Richard Porter estimated the meteor to be a foot across and burned about 35-50 km up in the sky.
Dave Dunworth sent an eyewitness report from Brixham Coastguard officer Andy Lloyd.
"I went off watch at 19:45 [7:45 pm] last night and as I walked out of the coastguard station I witnessed a very bright white light that streaked across the night sky," Lloyd said.
"As I watched, I thought at first I was seeing a meteorite. Then I heard a loud crackle and extremely loud popping -- an explosion type of noise. The sound was similar to a kind of electrical explosion, a dull thud similar to thunder. I have seen many meteorites in my work and what I saw last night does not fit the description or characteristics of a meteorite.
"As I watched, the cloud cover was about 1/8 cover and Cirrus clouds were visible at about 20,000 feet. The object caused a bright arc of intense white light streaking from the south-east to north-west, 1/2 mile west of Brixham. The object seemed to arc from the 10 o'clock position in a coma shape to the 4 o'clock position."
Although Lloyd and some other witnesses characterized this as a UFO sighting, meteor experts were unanimous in agreeing it was a large bolide or fireball meteor.
What experts have not explained is why large bolide meteors, normally considered rare events, are lately falling out of the sky with alarming frequency. Over a dozen confirmed or suspected bolides have been reported over the United States alone in the last four months, with many other events reported in other countries including Greenland, Colombia and the UK.
The only tentative explanation offered thus far is that the earth is now passing through the region of space that was occupied by the tail of Comet Hale-Bopp one year ago. That large and "dirty" comet undoubtedly left a trail of icy debris in its path -- debris that is now entering the earth's atmosphere, resulting in numerous spectacular aerial displays.
Back to document index
Original file name: CNI - UK Fireball
This file was converted with TextToHTML - (c) Logic n.v.