Monday, 22 August 2011

fire in the sky

hale bopp, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

I was up on the roof at twenty to ten last night, ready to watch the International Space Station go by. It was a clear, still evening; a polar satellite quietly passed northward, far overhead, skimming the handle of the Plough as it went.

Two minutes short of the appointed time for the ISS to appear, a great fireball streaked across the sky above me, leaving a long trail and flickering and sparking as it went. I thought momentarily that it was a firework; but it was too white, and too silent. Utterly silent.

Then the ISS appeared, and ascended to a zenith right overhead, and so declined to the eastern horizon, dimming as it dived into the earth's shadow. Ordinarily, it would have been pretty impressive; tonight, though, it had been seriously outstaged. As I watched, my mobile rang. It was Brendagh, over in Long Ashton; "Did you see that?"

Later, I looked on Twitter. Other people around Bristol had also seen it; and someone in Reading, for whom it had been in the West.

Here's a picture of Hale-Bopp, which was really quite unlike a fireball in some ways, but was also a silent presence in the sky.