'Fireball' in sky causes UFO fever

The Sun, UK/March 5, 2012

It came from outer space . . . and left thousands of stunned Brits wondering if ET had finally come to visit.

Startled onlookers the length of the nation flooded police and emergency services with calls after watching this bright orange fireball streak across the Saturday night sky.

Witnesses from northern Scotland to the South East coast feared the flash of fire between 9.40 and 9.50pm was a burning plane or even a UFO.

But experts identified it as one of the most spectacular meteors to grace our skies in 30 years — delighting dedicated stargazers.

And today a florist has come forward to claim she may have found it.

Joanne Pain, from Redcar, Cleveland, says she discovered the space rock while taking her dog for a walk yesterday.

Despite sightings of the meteorite having taken place as far south as Bradwell-On-Sea, Essex — 270 miles away — the 43-year-old believes her discovery could be genuine.

She said: "We've looked it up on the internet and it looks like one.

"It's heavy and it has what looks like 'small white chondrules' described on the internet.

"We've seen pictures of them where they've hit cars on the internet and done quite a bit of damage."

Sun reader Pam Lewis, 42, from Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, watched the fireball pass her house with daughter Chelsea, 15.

She said: "I was watching TV when Chelsea said, 'Mum, look at the sky'. I was mesmerised — I'd never seen anything like it before.

"It was there for five to ten seconds and going straight across the sky over the tops of the houses.

"I was a bit scared. It was like a Fireworks Night rocket, but so close that it felt like you could touch it."

David Isaacson, 39, a technology entrepreneur from Manchester, was having a cigarette when he saw it.

He said: "I thought I was seeing things. There was a big ball of fire coming towards me — I didn't know what to do. My heart started thumping, but then the thing disappeared over the back of my house."

Dozens of thrilled astronomers posted reports of the sighting on the website of the American Meteor Society. Amateur stargazer Phil Randall, of Sutton-in-Ashfield, Notts, said: "It was the longest and brightest fireball I've ever seen."

Ross Niven, of Monifieth, near Dundee, called it "spectacular".

Gary Fildes was hosting a seminar at the Kielder Observatory in Northumberland when he and 40 guests got a 40-second view of the fireball.

He said: "It was phenomenal. Everyone went mental. I was getting questions asking, 'What is it'? and, 'Is it going to end life on Earth'? It was absolutely amazing."

Amateur photographer Mike Ridley snapped the meteor against the backdrop of a laser display in Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear. He said: "I caught the white light and an orange glowing tail. It was spectacular."

Hannah Godwin, of Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex, said: "It was truly amazing."

A spokesman for Strathclyde Police said the force had been "inundated" with calls.

Cops in the Grampian, Dumfries and Galloway and Lothian and Borders areas also reported calls.

Author and astronomer Dr David Whitehouse said the object was the size of a fist and was probably the debris of a planet which never properly formed.

He said: "It's probably come from somewhere between Mars and Jupiter. It may have hit the ground. But until people work out its trajectory we won't know where."

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