Institute of Astronomy

Meteor sighting

Published on 24/09/2012 
Question: 

Hi Again. It was not yet completely dark. Just dark enough for cars to have their headlights switched on at about 7:15 pm on 19 Sept 2012. We were travelling north on Airport Way, near Teversham heading towards Quy Waters roundabout. A bright light caught my eye. It was bluey green in colour and it was travelling at the speed of a meteorite but burned longer, maybe 3 seconds. It seemed to disappear perhaps behind a cloud or possibly burned itself out. It looked as if it were heading towards earth at about a 30 degree angle. It seemed significant enough to mention. I was wondering if other people saw it and what it might have been.

What you saw was most likely a relatively large meteor, as you can probably guess the larger a meteor is the longer it will last, and 3 seconds of visibility is not particularly unusual.  Meteors with a blue-green colour are less common, but not by no means unheard of, especially amongst brighter meteors since for fainter ones you won't be able to see the colour (the same reason almost all stars appear white).  The blue-green colour can be an indicator of a higher copper content in the meteor.

Addendum to original reply:
The BBC also picked up on this and Cambridge is far from the only place in the UK the meteors were seen.  One of the astronomers the BBC asked suggested the meteors might have been man-made space junk such as an old satellite burning up on re-entry.  This would otherwise look much the same as a natural rocky meteor, but could certainly explain a high copper content!
 

Page last updated: 24 September 2012 at 16:46