Meteor seen along NZ

03:13, Sep 01 2009

A fiery meteor blazed a trail through the skies on Friday morning, with sightings reported from Christchurch to Rotorua.

Zoe Battersby, out for an early walk along Jimmy Amers beach in Kaikoura at around 6.10am, said she couldn't help but notice it.

"It was very bright the size of a streetlight. It looked like it fell into the sea," she said.

Alan Gilmore, resident superintendent of the Canterbury University Mt John Observatory, said meteors entered the atmosphere over New Zealand "several times a year", but he doubted that the rock made it to the ground or water level. "This meteor is very typical, and often they burn up at about 70 kilometres up," he said.

"They are coming into a thicker atmosphere, travelling at 30km a second.

"The friction is strong and they slow up and start to break up.

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"It's like throwing a stone at a concrete path."

Mr Gilmore said as meteors broke up, witnesses often saw a bright flash known as a "terminal fireball".

Meteors could be seen from as far as 1000km away and at a height of 100km.

"They are spectacular, often a bright white centre which is the actual rock ... a tiny, brilliant star with a teardrop-shaped glow that's brilliant emerald green caused by the oxygen and the radiation coming off the rock."

Mr Gilmore said a sonic boom often heralded the rare occasion of a meteor landing.

He expected Friday's meteor entered the atmosphere somewhere over the North Island because of the range of reported sightings.

"The impression of closeness is deceptive.

"Because they are bright, people think [the meteorite] landed a couple of paddocks away."

The Marlborough Express