A fireball seen shooting across the skies over Scotland and Northern Ireland was a meteorite, experts said.
Hundreds of people reported seeing the ‘shooting star’ in UK skies at around 10pm on Wednesday.
Scientists used video recorded by the public to determine whether the object was a meteorite or space debris and where it came from.
It would have landed in the sea south of the Hebrides if it reached Earth.
The space rock that enters the Earth’s atmosphere is called a meteorite, but the fragments that survive the journey to reach the ground are called meteorites.
Man-made objects left in orbit around Earth – such as parts of a satellite – are described as space junk. There are tens of thousands of pieces of space junk larger than 10 centimeters (4 inches) orbiting Earth, and they can burn up like meteorites as they enter the atmosphere.
The British Meteor Network has now announced that the object, which appeared to burn up in the atmosphere for around 20 seconds, was “definitely a meteor”.
Almost 800 witness reports from the UK and Ireland were recorded overnight.
Britain’s Meteor Network said the object came to rest between 50 and 100km west of Islay.
“It came into the orbit of an asteroid and entered the atmosphere at 14.2 km/s,” the network tweeted. “The observed part of the orbit covered more than 300 km.
“If any meteorites did fall, they ended up in the ocean.”
The team of experts said it is “now 100% certain that this was a small part of an asteroid”.
Kevin Morgan, of the UK Meteor Network, had earlier told BBC radio’s Good Morning Scotland that the speed at which it was traveling could suggest it was space junk.
After wondering if it could be part of Elon Musk’s SpaceX program, the citizen scientist network, he tweeted: “We have checked the Starlink derailment and it would not have come anywhere near the UK.
“At this point we cannot find any known space debris or satellite derailment that could be due to this fireball. We are re-examining the data.”
The International Meteorological Organization said the majority of reports were from central Scotland, but there were also sightings from the Black Isle and Kinnaber in the east, near Montrose and as far south as London.
Initial calculations indicated that the object was traveling NNE and could have landed in the Atlantic Ocean “south of the Hebrides”.
Steve Owens, astronomer and science communicator at Glasgow Science Centre, said the sighting was “unbelievable”.
“I was sitting in my living room at exactly 10 p.m. and I saw out of the widow in the south this brilliant fireball – this meteor – going across the sky,” he said.
“I could tell it was something special. I could see through the broken cloud that it was fragmenting – disintegrating into little pieces that came off.
“Normally, if you see a meteor or a shooting star, it’s just tiny little streaks of light that last a fraction of a second, but this one was streaking across the sky for at least 10 seconds, probably longer.
“It traveled from the south to the west. It was an incredible sight.”
He said it was unlikely, but not impossible, that it had made it to the ground and may have reached the Atlantic Ocean.
Mr Owens said: “Normally these little shooting stars burn up and everything disappears and evaporates into the atmosphere, but the thing last night was bigger than a bit of dust that causes normal shooting stars.
“Last night it might have been the size of a golf ball or maybe a cricket ball, maybe even bigger than that.
James Williams saw it from his front garden on the south side of Glasgow and managed to capture it on his mobile phone and doorbell camera. He described it as “all different colors like a firework but silent”.
Danny Nel, 21, was walking his dog in Johnstone, west of Paisley and Glasgow, when he saw the fireball.
“I was walking my dog and it was quite strange 10pm on the dot and I just saw the flash in the sky and I took out my phone and recorded it,” he told the PA news agency.
“I thought it might be a firework at first because there was a lot of Scottish football going on, but I quickly realized it wasn’t and I just grabbed my phone to see if I could catch it.”
The UK Fireball Alliance announced on Thursday night that the fireball was a “natural object”.
Dr Aine O’Brien, from the University of Glasgow and a member of the alliance, urged people to report their sightings on their website.
He said: “Hopefully it was a meteorite and given the time that has passed we may have the first Scottish meteorite in over 100 years.”
Scientists will use videos of the fireball to triangulate where it came from and track where it would have landed had it not burned up in the atmosphere, Dr O’Brien said.
He said it was nothing to worry about.
“It’s just a wonderful, beautiful thing. We get shooting stars, meteors all the time.”
Dr O’Brien added that it was just “lucky” that the weather and timing of the fireball meant that many people could see and record it.
Dr Marc Sarzi, head of research at Armagh Planetarium, said the fireball was “very spectacular” but did not think it was a “major event”.
He said meteor showers of small particles left behind by comets usually occurred in the summer.
If this fireball was caused by a meteor, “it would probably leave behind a nice chunk of asteroid,” he said.