Meteor spotted streaking across night sky over UK

Hundreds of people spotted the fireball light up the night sky from Orpington to Wolverhampton, as Neil Connery reports

meteor was spotted streaking across the sky over Britain, delighting stargazers on Monday evening.

The Met Office confirmed that a meteor had been seen just after 8pm, following a clear night for many parts of the country.

Many people took to social media to share their sightings, captured on their mobile phones or personal door cameras.

Meteors are pieces of debris which enter Earth’s atmosphere at speeds of up to 43 miles per second (70 kilometres per second), vaporising and causing the streaks of light we see across the sky.

One Twitter user wrote: "Rickmansworth tonight, it wasn’t just a shooting star, it was orange in the sky!!"

Meanwhile, another wrote: "I saw huge white ball, red surround, long trail of shooting stars type tail, couldn’t believe my eyes. Beautiful. If I was elsewhere or looking away would have missed it. Amazing."

What is the difference between a shooting star and a meteor?

They are the same thing.

What you are witnessing when you see a shooting star is a small piece of interplanetary matter, called a meteor, entering the Earth's atmosphere and 'burning up' at a height of about 100 km.

These small particles move very fast relative to the Earth. When they enter the Earth's atmosphere, they are completely evaporated and the air in the path of the meteor is ionised.

The light you see is from the emission of radiation from the ionised gas and from the white-hot evaporating particle. The trail is the hot gas gradually cooling down.

What is a meteor shower?

When the Earth encounters a number of these meteors at once, we call them 'meteor showers'.

These are specific clouds of debris that originate from particular sources.

Every meteor shower has a progenitor Comet – the place where the debris cloud has come from.

Persied meteor shower Credit: PA Images

As the Comet gets close to the Sun, it heats up - and being a ball of mostly ice, it starts to evaporate.

Rather than becoming a liquid, it transforms into a cloud of particles, just sublimes – a big cloud of debris.

As the comet goes around the Sun it is constantly filling its orbit with debris. If its orbit coincides with the Earth’s orbit then every year the Earth will travel through that cloud of debris.

Those little pieces then burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere creating meteor showers, or shooting stars.

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