A mysterious ‘burning trail’ seen spiralling through the night sky at around 8pm on Wednesday, prompted fevered speculation as to what it could be.
According to an eyewitness, Gerry Underwood, 55, who lives in Stretham, Cambridgeshire, UK, he was sitting outside his canal boat when he spotted the trail of a flaming object in the sky. Gerry who took and shared photos of the night sky, said the trail of smoke left by the ‘mysterious’ burning object lasted for twenty minutes.
He said to metro UK reporter who he shared the photos with: ‘It looked like a very thick chemtrail to start with. It looked like a short, skinny cloud. It wasn’t moving quickly at all. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a meteorite, because they are gone in seconds.
‘We have seen hundreds of shooting stars, but this definitely wasn’t that either. This was coming down very slowly and spiralling. It started to glow orange as you can see in the pictures.
‘The sheer size of it is what’s got me. When you look at the pictures, they show the trees in the foreground and it’s way beyond that, it was very big. ‘It landed beyond the horizon, that’s how big it was – we couldn’t see it land.’
‘We see a lot of strange things down the river, but that’s the first time we’ve ever seen something like that.’Gerry said.
Star-gazers have put forward multiple theories including meteor showers, shooting stars, fireworks, airplane trails – and even signs of extra-terrestrial life to explain the vivid red trails and bright lights in the sky.
However astronomy experts have sought to reassure the public that these night-sky wonders are natural occurrences.
Dr Robert Massey, deputy executive director of the Royal Astronomical Society, said there were scientific explanations for these phenomena.
He told MailOnline: ‘I think the intense bright light that people are seeing is the planet Venus in the sky, because it is dramatically bright.
‘Venus is so particularly bright at the moment that you can see it during the day and at dusk it becomes obvious very quickly.
‘It is very likely that people are seeing Venus in the sky before other stars become visible. And it would appear to disappear if clouds move in front of it.
‘This will continue until the end of May.
‘The burning object moving through the sky on Wednesday night looks a lot like an aircraft contrail to me.
‘While it is impossible to say exactly what the object is without further evidence, it looks like an aircraft contrail that is laminated by the setting sun.’
Dr Massey added that star-gazers will be able to enjoy a flurry of shooting stars shortly with the onset of the Lyriad meteor shower.
He said: ‘The peak of the Lyriad meteor shower is in a few days’ time, on the night of the 21st and 22nd of April.
‘The best time to see the meteors will be in the early hours of the 22nd April.’
The British UFO Research Association (BUFORA) agreed and said the burning object was probably an aircraft contrail.
BUFORA Science/Astronomy Consultant Heather Dixon told MailOnline: ‘Based on the pictures and analysis in the Mail article I agree with the opinion that this was an aircraft contrail.
‘Being illuminated by the setting sun would give it the dramatic, burning, red appearance.
‘The 20 minute timescale for this would also support the idea this was a contrail.
‘Something like a Chinese lantern would burn out much more quickly and fireball meteors only last a second or two.
‘The other pictures from Coventry attached to the email show something similar.
‘In this case you can see two parallel lines which indicate a contrail from a twin engine jet to me.
‘Nothing here strikes me as too unusual.’