On this day in history : 17th November 1882 – Walter Maunder, the Royal Astronomer, witnesses an unidentifiable flying object from the Greenwich Observatory….

Walter Maunder – Public domain

Maunder is best remembered for his study of sunspots – but on this particular evening was observing the night-time sky over London…. He was accompanied by some other European astronomers, including John Rand Capron, an amateur scientist, astronomer and photographer…. All were to witness the disc-like object, glowing green, which travelled at a rapid speed across the sky in a north-easterly direction….

Maunder was later to describe the experience in the June 1883 edition of The Observatory publication – of which he was editor…. He referred to the sighting as an ‘auroral beam’ and a ‘strange celestial visitor’…. As there had been intense auroral activity at the time it was assumed the UFO was connected to that…. He never witnessed anything like it again….

Drawing from ‘Philosophical Magazine’, May 1883 – Public domain

However, he wasn’t the first to record such a sighting (and I’m sure he wasn’t the last)…. In 664 a group of nuns saw a strange green light that appeared above Barking and headed over London…. In 764 ‘dragons’ were seen over the UK, including London – and in 1593 a report of a ‘flying dragon surrounded by flame’ was recorded over London…. In 1741 a fireball seen above Kensington by Lord Beauchamp supposedly measured just 8 inches in diameter…. The following year a rocket-like ship was seen by a Fellow of the Royal Society – it apparently ‘stayed around for many minutes’….

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