Amateur astronomer says 'meteor' seen over East Yorkshire was space junk returning to Earth
IT PROMPTED fears of a plane crash and even a UFO landing, while doom merchants who spotted the object whizzing through the night sky declared the end of the world was nigh.
But the green light that flashed over East Yorkshire late on Friday evening was nothing more out-of-this-world than a meteor – or a piece of old "space junk".
Hundreds of people reported seeing the object breaking up at about 11pm, which led to a flurry of panicked calls to Humber Coastguard and Humberside Police.
Amateur astronomer George McManus, who lives in the Holderness village of Long Riston, says it was pure luck he spotted it.
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He said: "I was observing Jupiter, then it was like someone had flicked a light switch and a green light appeared.
"At first I thought it was the RAF Sea King helicopter, but there were no flashing lights. If it was an object like that, there are usually lights on the tail.
"This was a steady, green light and I saw it was coming in my direction."
Mr McManus, 57, who has been star gazing from the age of 7, said the object appeared to get brighter as it whizzed across the night sky.
He said: "It travelled halfway across the sky in a matter of ten seconds, much faster than any military jet you would see.
"When it got to the middle of the Plough constellation, it was like a silent explosion. The way of describing it is when you send a rocket up on Bonfire Night and you see one light and then a shower of colours.
"It sent out a shower of particles in a straight line."
Mr McManus said behind the green light were dozens of multicoloured specks of light.
"They were all the colours of the rainbow," he said.
"It continued to travel from the east to the west, it was fabulous.
"I have been an amateur astronomer for 50 years and I have never seen anything so spectacular."
Some observers initially wondered whether they had seen a UFO or fireworks before deciding the spectacular lights were meteors.
But Mr McManus is convinced it was a piece of space junk burning up as it hit Earth's atmosphere.
"I have seen meteors," he said. "They are normally a bright light with a bit of a tail and they go steadily across the sky.
"This one would have been travelling at 20,000mph.
"It was likely something off a satellite and as it has come into Earth's atmosphere, it started to glow green and as it has got hotter and hotter, it broke up and that's what the colours were."
Mr McManus says it is not uncommon for space junk to come into Earth's atmosphere, but it is unusual to see it so clearly.
He said: "It was a beautiful night and perfect conditions for it. I was lucky I was looking where I was in the sky."
Others across East Yorkshire also reported seeing the bright light.
Humber Coastguard and Humberside Police both said they received a flurry of calls.
Matt Atkinson, of Humber Coastguard, said: "We received 29 calls in total.
"People thought they had seen flares fired by someone in distress."
Further north, people appeared more panicked, with some believing they had witnessed a plane crash.
Gary Fildes, one of 40 people watching at the Kielder Observatory in Northumberland, said: "People went absolutely mental. I was getting questions about is it going to end life on earth. It was massively exciting."