Asked by Kieran Murphy
If you’ve ruled out a bright star disappearing behind a cloud, what you most likely saw was an Iridium flare – these are caused by the satellites of the Iridium mobile phone system when they happen to line up just right. This only lasts a matter of a few seconds.
Iridium flares often look like meteors, however, if they’re heading directly toward you then they will look just like a star-like point. The same can be said for meteors, if they are angled just right in the night sky.
Given that any other astronomical event lasts longer than a few seconds, it’s unlikely to be something like a supernova, which is the catastrophic explosion of a star.
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