ASTRONOMY Ireland is appealing for witnesses to a fireball meteorite which was visible in skies across England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic last week.
The meteorite fell at around 5.15pm on Wednesday, November 23, and was witnessed by hundreds of people across Britain and Ireland.
The space rock likely shattered into hundreds of individual pieces worth 50 times the value of their weight in gold – with just one gram of meteorite rock having fetched €500 in Ireland previously.
Astronomy Ireland have been inundated with hundreds of written reports from across the Emerald Isle since Wednesday, but are now particularly keen to receive CCTV footage.
Footage from England, Wales, Scotland and the Republic is particularly sought after – as the meteorite would have been visible on the horizon above Northern Ireland – where it is now believed to have landed.
CCTV operators are asked to check their recordings from around 5.15pm on Wednesday evening.
Sightings of fireballs above Ireland are very rare, but the locating of remnants is particularly exceptional.
Significant findings of meteorite remnants in Ireland occurred in the 1960s and 1990s, but no extra-terrestrial fragments have been found from more recent occurrences.
In 1999, reports lodged by members of the public were vital in the discovery of fragments on a country lane near Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow.
The only previous discovery of meteorite fragments in Ireland in the 20th century occurred in April 1969, when the meteorite “Bovedy” landed near Limavady in Northern Ireland. It was found quickly as fragments impacted with a shop and a farm in nearby Sprucefield.
But the likelihood of impacts in urban areas are incredibly rare – and so witness reports are essential in the search for Irish meteorites.
— Massimo (@Rainmaker1973) November 25, 2016
Astronomy Ireland say they should have a better picture of the location of this year’s meteorite’s in the coming days, and are hoping than observant members of the public will step up the search once the landing zone is announced.
Speaking to The Irish Post, Astronomy Ireland director David Moore said that thousands of CCTV cameras from across the British Isles could have picked up the meteorite on Wednesday evening.
“The one thing we are really appealing for is anyone who operates closed-circuit television cameras. Especially a long way away from central Northern Ireland, where we believe now that it landed,” he said.
“Especially people who are far away such as Wales, Scotland, England and the south coast of Ireland. If they were just filming a car park for instance, the fireball would have been seen to come down on the horizon.
“A photographic record like that is worth hundreds of eye witness reports from much closer in, as we can analyse those in much greater detail.
“Although we are convinced that hundreds, if not thousands of cameras have recorded this event, not one person has so far come forward which is both remarkable and disappointing – so we are hoping they do.”
Eye witness reports of fireballs are notoriously unreliable, with bystanders in similar locations often known to report conflicting directions of travel.
As meteorites travel at as fast a rate as 70 kilometres per second, they are only visible for a very short time before they impact the ground, disappear below the horizon or simply disintegrate.
“It’s a much bigger event than people can often imagine. The speeds and temperatures involved are all unfathomable – 30,000 degrees Celsius is common and that is six times hotter than the sun,” David Moore said.
“They travel sometimes as fast as 100,000 miles per hour, way faster than anything humanity has ever launched, and people just don’t understand the scale of what they have seen.
“It’s almost like seeing a nuclear explosion, the amount of energy involved. It is equivalent to any conventional bomb dropped during World War Two at least.
“That said, Ireland is such a sparsely populated country and so often cloudy, that sightings are rare and discoveries even rarer. That is why we need people with CCTV footage of the event to come forward.”