Meteor lights up New Zealand sky
Bright flashes and sonic booms in the night sky above the North Island are most likely a chunk of asteroid or a meteoroid bursting through the Earth's atmosphere and burning up.
Bright lights and explosions in the sky have been reported from Auckland to Nelson, and the Coromandel to New Plymouth, and even people in Christchurch and on the West Coast.
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The event happened about 10pm on Wednesday night. People reported that their doors rattled with the impact.
Descriptions of the light ranged from white and orange to green and blue.
The official twitter page for Auckland Civil Defence & Emergency Management said it was "definitely not lightning, most likely a #meteor".
TV presenter John Campbell tweeted "something fast and bright just briefly illuminated the sky west of Auckland. Zipped across the blackness. Extraordinary."
Jean Forbes in South Auckland said after seeing the bright light her "doors shook".
In Hamilton Sam McCreary said: "I was standing outside my place in Hamilton at roughly 10pm and saw what I thought was an explosion in the sky. Looked like a big fireball".
Near Upper Hutt, Andy Wardle said he saw a "green fireball type light heading in the straight down direction."
It "appeared to explode and split into three distinctive pieces. I believe this would have landed somewhere out in the Tasman sea. It may have been a meteor or even perhaps a peice of space junk burning up."
Retired Auckland University lecturer and meteorite expert Dr Joel Schiff said the observations described by those who witnessed and heard the event point to a piece of stone or metal-like debris entering the Earth's atmosphere.
"If it's seen in various parts of the country it is most likely an object breaking up and burning up as it passes through our atmosphere," he said.
"There would also be a sound from possible explosions as the debris enters the lower atmosphere."
Schiff said it was not rare for meteoroids or small chunks of asteroids to enter the Earth's atmosphere but when it did happen in "your neighbourhood" it was pretty spectacular.
"This happens all the time somewhere on Earth but it is special for New Zealand because it was such a small target area surrounded by so much water."
However, it was rare for the pieces of space debris to hit land and become meteorites.
"Most meteoroids burn up before impact so if any make it to land that's exciting," Schiff said.
People should keep an eye out for really black rocks, he said.
In Nelson, Jessica Eynon said she "saw the sky flash white."
"I thought it was strange because unlike lightning only the sky flashed white and it did not light up my surroundings. It was one if the most beautiful moments of my life."