Home Science Giant Bright Orange Fireball Shoots Across The New Zealand Sky

Giant Bright Orange Fireball Shoots Across The New Zealand Sky

Credit: A Owen from Pixabay

Three or four times every year, meteorites strike the country, but the fireball that flew across Cook Strait last week was out of character for this.

Satellites from the United States seized it with the explosive strength of 1800 tons of TNT. Southern North Island residents reported hearing a loud boom.

There was a trail of smoke that lingered around for several minutes according to eyewitnesses, who saw a massive, brilliant orange blaze.

There was a strong likelihood that the fireball was triggered by a tiny meteor traveling through Earth’s atmosphere. It was one of only five worldwide effects of more than a thousand tonnes of energy in the last year. The majority of meteors are so small that they produce “shooting stars” that are only visible for a limited period of time.

GeoNet, a system of earthquake seismometers, was able to detect the shock wave from the meteor’s disintegration, as well as a blinding flash that was picked up by a worldwide lightning-tracking satellite.

Wellington’s MetService radar detected a trail of smoke south of the North Island’s tip.

Specialized meteor cameras are being deployed around New Zealand as part of the recently created Fireballs Aotearoa partnership between Otago and Canterbury’s universities and the astronomy community to hunt down newly falling meteorites.

Meteorites are gold mines for scientists. Some are made of material that predates the formation of the Sun. There are several stories about how the young Sun’s planet-forming disk started to generate bigger rocks and finally planets as dust swirled around it.

Red Aurora Of Doom Lights Up New Zealand Sky

This is not the first unusual sky phenomenon in New Zealand. Back in 2015 skywatchers observed a blood-red aurora. Ultimately the phenomenon was explained, coined under the name of STEVE (“Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement”).