Meteor shower sighting a rare occurrence - Astronomer

  • 06/01/2019

An astronomer believes it's been a long time since a large fiery meteor was seen rocketing across the sky by so many people.

Residents in Northland to Waikato were left stunned on Saturday after a fire ball broke up in the atmosphere at around 9:00pm.

Video of the incident was broadcast during the Blackcaps one day international against Sri Lanka, and emergency services were inundated with calls from concerned residents.

The New Zealand police jokingly tweeted to say the paranormal division had looked into it and everything was okay.

Dr Grant Christie from Auckland's Stardome Observatory told Newshub it's unusual for so many people to have seen the same object travelling across the sky.

"It's probably in the order of maybe once every five years or so, the last really bright one was in 1999 I think... over Taranaki."

Dr Christie believes the meteor would not have been very big, but it would be hard to tell the actual size.

"The object itself would have been something in the order of maybe a foot across, something in that size, size of a basketball possibly.

"It's hard to tell exactly but it wasn't a monstrous great rock or something like that."

Tutukaka resident Alex McKenzie spotted the meteor after noticing disturbed animals and hearing a huge bang.

"All of a sudden there's this huge boom noise and I was thinking 'this has happened never before in my life that I've lived here, I've never heard this something different is happening,'" she told Newshub.

Dr Christie said it's common for space objects to make loud noises on their way down to earth.

"Because it's travelling far faster than the speed of sound it produces a sonic boom the same way as a jet aircraft travelling above the speed of sound does."

Ms McKenzie said the first indication anything was happening was when she spotted some upset horses.

"I looked over and I was saying to my friend, 'those horses are running around, why are they running around look at them, they're bucking, they're jumping why are they doing that?'

"Then maybe a minute later this meteorite came across the sky."

She's well aware that it wasn't an everyday occurrence.

"My friend from Auckland was like 'nah, nah, nah that's normal don't even worry about it' and then it started to break up

"I was thinking 'this is definitely not normal I have lived here for 20 years, I have never seen anything like that.'"