Fireball
© This Is Total Essex
Debris: This piece detached from the fireball, Eleanor said.
These photographs apparently show a large fireball in the skies above Chelmsford.

The pictures are just two of a series taken by Eleanor Collop, 13, and her 17-year-old sister Leanne, after they spotted the 'meteor' from outside their home on the Beechenlea Estate.

The burning object was seen high in the sky last Friday at 4pm and appeared to fall to earth, leaving the sisters to wonder whether they had just witnessed a plane crash.

Eleanor, a student at Hylands School, said: "I haven't seen anything like that before - it was so bright."

She spotted the object - with a distinctive fiery core and long, forked tail - as she got ready for her after-school paper-round.

"I was just taking my trolley from the garage when I caught sight of it," said Eleanor.

"At first I thought it was a plane but it got brighter and brighter.

"I shouted for my sister and then we called our dad, who told us to take a picture."

The fireball - thought to be caused by debris burning up in the earth's atmosphere - spent five minutes visible in the Chelmsford sky before it disappeared behind some houses.

"I'm not sure what it was but it was bright and it definitely looked like it was burning," added Eleanor, who used a normal ten-megapixel camera to capture the images.

The event stunned the family so much that Eleanor's mother, Martine, called the police to ask if anyone else in Essex had seen a burning meteor.

"I just can't believe Eleanor and Leanne were the only two people to see it," she said.

An expert from the Royal Astronomical Society said it was "unusual" to see a meteor during the day.

Dr Robert Massey said: "On the face of it, the streaks look a lot like aircraft contrails illuminated by the setting sun.

"That said, there are occasional meteors that are bright enough to be seen in daylight - in this case the sun didn't set until around 4.15pm.

"So, without having seen it in motion, this may be an image of a larger-than-average piece of debris burning up in the Earth's atmosphere," he added.

"This happens all the time and are normally seen at night as shooting stars, most of which are relatively small.

"But it's unusual to see an event during the day."