'Fiery' meteor sighted

BY SHAHRA WALSH
Last updated 09:39 28/08/2009

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



Did you see the meteor? Did you take a photograph? Email reporters@press.co.nz.


Zoe Battersby was out for an early walk along Jimmy Amers beach in Kaikoura at around 6.10am when she noticed a “very large meteor”.

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

Christchurch man Aaron Green said he saw "a bright blue and white light dropping from the sky like a firework”.

Alan Gilmore, resident superintendent of the University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory said meteors enter 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 70kms up. It’s very rare for them to actually land. 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. It’s like throwing a stone at a concrete path,” he said.

Gilmore said as the meteor breaks up, witnesses often see a bright flash known as a ‘terminal fireball’.

He said meteors “burning up coming through air - white hot with friction - start to glow”. Meteors could be seen from as far as 100kms up and could be seen from almost 1000kms away.

“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,” he said.

Gilmore said on the rare occasion that a meteor lands - then becoming known as a meteorite - its arrival is often heralded with a sonic boom caused by the temperature layers that exist closer to the surface, below 60kms.
 
Because of the range of reported sightings, Gilmore expected the meteor entered the atmosphere somewhere over the North Island.

“The impression of closeness is deceptive. Because they are bright, people think [the meteorite] landed a couple of paddocks away.

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