I saw something moving across the sky last night! What was it?

What you saw could have been one of three (or more) things, depending on its duration and apparent speed. Most likely, what you saw was a fireball, or a very bright meteor (shooting star). Usually, fireballs streak across the sky in a matter of seconds, but can leave a faint ionization trail visible for minutes. They can be as bright as the Moon sometimes. On the other hand, it could have been a satellite in orbit around the Earth. They are much slower moving and relatively constant in brightness. Many satellites are visible after sunset and before sunrise, as this is the time when they are reflecting sunlight but it is still dark on the surface of the Earth. Also, some satellites can flare up for a few seconds and become very bright when their solar panels reflect the sunlight. Finally, what you saw could have been a rocket launch or re-entry in your local area. These launches are sometimes visible for hundreds of miles, and generate a lot of curiosity!

If you wish to report a very bright meteor or fireball, do not report it to Spacewatch®: once an object has entered the earth's atmosphere, it is no longer available for our telescopes to study. Instead, there are two organizations which would like to have your report, and each of them has an on-line means by which you can report your sighting easily. It is important to report your sighting quickly, because your report can sometimes help in the location and recovery of solid pieces of the meteoritic body which entered the atmosphere. The two organizations are the "American Meteor Society", and the "International Meteor Organization". To report your sightings, please use the links below:

American Meteor Society -- Fireball Report Form

International Meteor Organization -- Fireball Report Form

For general information from these two organizations about Meteors and Fireballs, please see:

American Meteor Society

International Meteor Organization