Chance photo captures meteor's spectacular display

Wellington man Jono Matla had no sooner pressed the shutter for the last photo in his six-shot panorama when the meteor ...

Wellington man Jono Matla had no sooner pressed the shutter for the last photo in his six-shot panorama when the meteor burned across the sky.

Jono Matla had just pressed the shutter button when the night sky lit up.

Starting as a ball of orange, a meteor was cutting its way through the sky over Waikanae, north of Wellington, turning a neon green as it went. 

"I had literally just pressed the button to take [the photo] and I looked up and saw it," he said.

Did you see the meteor? Email your images or videos to

It was Tuesday, about 9pm, and he was the only one on the beach.

READ MORE: Meteor seen by dozens across North Island


"Hands-down," Matla said, "one of the most amazing things I've ever seen".

It was also pure chance he was out at all.

Earlier in the evening, Matla got a call from a friend who was taking photos in Paraparaumu. It prompted Matla to do some stargazing of his own and he headed to the beach near his house to see what he could photograph in the sky.

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"It was a really clear night, so I thought I'd head out."

Matla - who's been a photographer since about 2012 - took six shots with a 50mm lens to make the vertical panorama. It was on the last shot, just after he pressed the shutter, when the meteor shot past.

It burned out after about four seconds, but Matla had it on his camera - a striking green streak across the sky.

Ironically, the friend who prompted Matla to go out missed the spectacle completely, but was impressed to hear what the outcome was.

"He just said it was so crazy. He's never seen anything like it."

It was also a first for Matla.

"I've never seen anything, anything as big and bright as that one.

"I'm pretty stoked with it." 

While Matla had it on camera, he wasn't alone in seeing it. Reports had come in from across the North Island and as far south as Nelson.

"I saw it, but only out of the corner of my eye," Clare Yates said in an email. "Very freaky and I literally jumped out of my seat.

In West Harbour, Auckland, Eviie King described it as "a strike of silver then a flash of blue/green light", while in Mirimar, Wellington, Anita Winkels' husband thought a plane was crashing.

Another tipster said they had "no explanation for what this is".

"Hopefully someone can put it to rest, but it looks like a damn UFO to me."

The colour of the meteor - from orange to its striking green - would be down to the material it was made of, said Nigel Forst, Superintendent of Mt John Observatory in Tekapo, South Canterbury.

He said Mt John had no reports of sightings so far south, but said the curve of Earth would have an effect on that.

"Further south it would be less visible. As we go round the curve of the Earth we will be less likely to see it."

Jono Matla says he couldn't believe his luck when he managed to capture this meteor on camera. He was shooting a six-image vertical panorama with a 50mm lens when, while taking the final image, the meteor cut its way across the sky. Photo: JONO MATLA
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