Stargazers throughout the UK have reported seeing a meteor-like streak of light in the darkened skies.
The BBC was contacted by people in Scotland, the Midlands, Wales, and northern and south west England who saw the display at about 1740 GMT.
One witness driving home from work in Coventry said the light was a bit scary because it was so "incredibly bright".
Astronomers said the brightness of the meteor, a chunk of space rock burning up in the atmosphere, was unusual.
Dr David Whitehouse, astronomer and former BBC correspondent, said: "It's a bright meteor called a fireball, extraordinarily bright.
"This a chunk of space rock perhaps the size of your fist, perhaps a bit larger, that is burning up as it comes through our atmosphere at an altitude of 60 or 70 miles or so.
"So it sounds extraordinary if you're very lucky enough to have seen it. It's quite rare."
Dr Edward Bloomer, an astronomer with the Royal Observatory Greenwich, said the fireball was probably part of the Geminids meteor shower, which happens every year, appears to radiate from the constellation Gemini and will peak on 14 December.
"We are passing through the trail of the comet, and the material that's in the tail burns up when it comes into contact with the Earth's atmosphere," he said.
"A fireball is rather exotic and because it is bigger, it glows brighter and takes longer to break up."
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Meteor fireball spotted in skies over Britain.
From BBC News: