On the night of the 30 July 1981 people in Ireland sighted a massive fireball in the sky. Dr Ian Elliott of Dunsink Observatory puts the public minds to rest.

Dr Elliott says it was a large meteor which are above the earth all the time. It is possible to spot about 10 every hour in the night sky.

The gravitational fields of the earth pull particles from a meteor swarm towards the earth's atmosphere and friction causes them to heat up and melt and even evaporate. Sometimes the meteors break into fragments. When some of the particles reach the ground, they are called meteorites but this is rare so the dangers are remote.  It is of scientific interest to encounter an meteorite as they can tell us something about the age and composition of the solar system. 

Dr Elliot says that the Dunsink Observatory received many telephone calls from people reporting having spotted something in the night sky but he says,

There's no reason to be alarmed about meteors... Every day around 400 tonnes of low speed material lands on the earth... It just drifts down from the upper atmosphere... but the probability of a meteorite ever hitting anyone is extremely low.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 31 July 1981.