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Cumbrian meteorite..?

Hi List,

Following List advice on how I could go about locating any meteorites in my
part of the world, I wrote a piece for my local paper asking for people to
contact me if they a) had rock piles which mught be worth checking out for
meteorites, and b) if they had any "strange" rocks which might be meteorites.
That piece appeared in tonight's edition...

... and I've just had a retired gentleman on the phone with a *very*
interesting account of a spectacular fireball which sounds suspiciously like a
Fall to me... 

Here's what I've got from him in our intitial conversation:

WHEN? "About 30 years ago..." (yes, I know it's vague, but he was adamant that
this was a fireball very widely reported in the media at the time, it was "in
all the papers and in the news", and "all the meteorite experts wanted to find
it..." so there must be records somewhere..?

WHERE? The fireball moved northwards, was first visible over London and the SE
of England and travelled almost the length of England, "coming down" off the
Solway coast here in Cumbria. My gentleman was adamant that at the time
"hundreds" of people saw it, so there must be someone out there on the List
with records of things like this? (Rob? Bernd? are you listening..? :-)  )

WHAT DID HE SEE? Okay, this is where it gets real interesting, because this
guy has absolutely NO astronomical knowledge - I tested him with a few q's,
subtly - but he gave an almost textbook description of a bright fireball... he
saw "a bright, football shaped ball of fire moving overhead, with a great
tongue of flame behind it".... and thought, quote, "Oh my god, there's a plane
on fire!"... then "it started to sputter out..." and it actually "passed right
over our {he watched this with a friend} heads ..." and it was, get this,
"HISSING AND SIZZLING as it flew"... and it "just missed taking the top off a
big barn before going out..." and "when it had gone out it left "a big plume
of black smoke..."

Now, like most non-astronomers who witness a bright meteor he's convinced
something came down, absolutely convinced (and he phoned because it's
"bothered" him for years, ever since it happened, he didn't say anything at
the time because it frightened him a little and he wasn't wanting any fuss,
after reading my piece he realised that maybe someone else could handle the
fuss! He just wants his curiosity satisfied now...!), and when I pointed out
how misleading bright fireballs can be, he accepted that, no problem... but he
has told me that if it DID come down, then he can - and will - take me to the
exact field on the coast where "it went out"... He sounded very genuine, and
very, very excited to have read my article because it "brought it all back"...

So, what I'm thinking is this: if his story checks out and there was such a
spectacular- well-reported fireball approx 30 years ago - and I need help from
you good people on this - I'll take him up on his offer and go along to this
field, at worst to confirm that he was mistaken and it either vanished in mid-
air or indeed fell into the sea, a little further along the track... or, at
best, find "it" or some pieces of "it". If this happened 30 years ago the
chances are that anything that came down will be weathered and beaten up a
bit, but the field is a farm field, so maybe pieces were found without being
recognised and discarded, and are just waiting to be picked up..?

A VERY long shot, I know.... but it has to be worth a look, right?

Over to you guys. Did this happen? All opinions / suggestions gratefully

Stuart A 

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