ITV

Some of those who witnessed the Bovedy meteorite which crashed in Northern Ireland 50 years ago have been remembering the event at the Armagh Planetarium.

The meteorite is named after the townland near Kilrea where it fell on 25 April 1969.

It had been seen passing over the South East of England and over Wales before it crashed – and was described as looking like a shooting star or fireball as it fragmented coming into land.

It was found three days later and had broken into two traceable pieces, one which had fallen through the roof of a shop in Lisburn and the other on a farm in Bovedy.

Former director of the planetarium Terence Murtagh is one of those who saw the shooting star and helped locate it after it fell to Earth.

“The fireball was brilliant, it was many many times brighter than the full moon and it was shooting across the sky, and little bits of it you could see were falling off, in fact one piece fell a mile from where I live,” he described.

“I was rushing out to go out the front door to see where it went when the sonic booms hit. There were three big sonic booms and they rocked the whole house, everything in the house shook like an earthquake.

Terence Murtagh
Terence Murtagh speaking to UTV about the meteorite 50 years on. Credit: UTV

“That whole weekend myself and all the members of the Irish Astronomical Association, we were out scouring the country to find pieces.”

He added: “The planetarium is the natural home for a visitor from space, this meteorite is actually older than the planet Earth believe it or not. It’s something like 4.7 billion years old so this is a building block of what the major stony planets of the solar system are made of.”

The meteorite was recently valued at £200,000 and is stored in a secure glass box at the observatory.

While 1968 was a significant year in Northern Ireland history due to civil unrest that broke out, it was also the year that the planetarium opened. It has celebrated its 50th year and this year is focusing on the 50th anniversary of major space-related events such as the Bovedy meteorite and the Apollo moon landing.

Operations Manager Heather Alexander explained: “We were very lucky that it fell here because most meteorites fall on large bits of land or in the ocean so it’s great for us to have it and a lot people did witness it, they observed it, they heard the sound.

“It was the first meteorite to ever be recorded for sound, by a lady called Eileen Brown in Bangor and the first photograph that was taken of the Bovedy was taken in Bangor, Wales, so it’s great that we have those connections and anyone who comes here of a certain age will tell us that they remember the Bovedy.”