Northern Ireland news

50th anniversary of Bovedy meteorite crash in NI

It is currently on display at the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium

WITH a flash of colour in the sky, 50 years ago a meterorite crash landed in Northern Ireland.

It was April 25 1969 when it was observed travelling over Wales, releasing a sonic boom and breaking up in an orange flash over the north.

One piece of the rock broke off and landed in Lisburn, Co Antrim burning through an asbestos roof at the police central store at Spucefield. It weighed 513gm and as it fell, broke into two pieces.

But an even larger piece landed 60km away on farmland near Limavady in Co Derry. This particular meteorite was the last to fall and actually be recovered in the Northern Ireland.

The second rock weighed 4.95kg and fell to the earth on a farm in Bovedy owned by Samuel Gilmore, giving the metorite its name.

A celebration of the "extra-terrestrial geology" was held yesterday at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium where crowds of people gathered to mark the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the meterorite.

The rock is currently on display at the planetarium with smaller pieces in other collections around the world.

As well as having some unique characteristics, the meteorite is one of the very few in the world which was recorded on audio. A woman in Bangor was recording bird song just as the meteorite fell and caught the detonations through a microphone.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Bovedy meteorite falling, west Belfast-born artist Noel Connor has described his experience of seeing it in the sky.

Writing for the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, he tells of how he witnessed the phenomenon as he played football in the street in Andersonstown with his friends, aged just 14.

"Not long after we had started playing, the `Bovedy' blazed low across the sky above our heads; at that stage a magnificent fireball floodlighting a group of amazed kids, " he wrote.

"We all stood transfixed, watching it disappear off behind the mountain, having no idea what had just occurred. Back at home, I discovered that no-one else had witnessed the event, and over the subsequent days and weeks it was forgotten about."

But Mr Connor described how it "was too profound an image to be ignored and many years later my research eventually led me to the Armagh Planetarium".

"Not only did they confirm the event and times and dates, but the actual meteorite which had come to ground on farmland at Bovedy, had been loaned to their collection," he said.

"I was invited to visit and had the extraordinary privilege of holding the mysterious object which had fire-balled across my childhood sky in 1969."

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