A METEOR that sparked emergency phone calls to the Coastguard was photographed by chance over Loch Ness by a Highland tour guide.
John Alasdair Macdonald, known as the Hebridean Explorer, took the photograph at 9pm on Sunday.
Mr Macdonald said the picture of the shooting star – a chunk of debris from outer space which leaves a trail of light as it falls through the Earth’s atmosphere – taken using a Sony compact camera near Dochfour was “pure luck”.
“It was my first and probably my last meteor photo. I was so lucky.
“I live in the village of Drumnadrochit and I’m a tour guide and I was looking for something to put on my website.
“We had lovely weather up here at the weekend and I live near Loch Ness so I thought I’d just nip down to try to get some photos of the stars over the loch to put on my Facebook page and drum up some business.
“I went down to the Dochfour end of the loch and set my Sony RX100 compact camera on a tripod.
“It has a 30-second exposure and I’d been there for about an hour when I seem to remember seeing a quick flash of light lasting about two to three seconds.
“I held my breath for the next ten seconds hoping the camera had caught it. The meteor was very strange, very bright, a brilliant white, cutting across the loch at a diagonal and exploded across the loch and seeming to come to an end in the middle of it, though in reality goodness knows how far away it was.”
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency received several calls from people on the north-west coast of Scotland concerned it was a boat’s flare.
Mr Macdonald described his images as a “fluke”.
“It was a beautiful, clear night and I got some nice pictures but capturing the meteor was a fluke. I will never take a picture like that again.”
Mr Macdonald, originally from Lewis, said he had seen messages on social media of a meteor being seen elsewhere, including Sleat on Skye.
The meteor is believed to have been seen as far away as Switzerland, Austria and parts of Germany.
Rob Elliott, a professional meteorite hunter from Milton of Balgonie in Fife, said capturing a meteor on camera was “remarkable”.
“I’ve seen two fireballs in my lifetime. By the time you get your camera set up or press the buttons on your mobile phone you’ve missed it. It’s rare to actually capture one.”
Meanwhile, as the UK gears up for the near-total solar eclipse on Friday, hoteliers and bed and breakfast owners in the Outer Hebrides – set to have the best view in the UK of the astronomical phenomenon which will not be repeated for another decade – are hoping for a surge in bookings.
Donny Mackay, of the Stornoway Astronomical Society, said he had received hundreds of calls from people asking about accommodation and that the Isle of Lewis was the best location in the UK for viewing the eclipse with a total coverage of approximately 98 per cent.
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