'Massive shooting star' explodes over North Island, lighting up sky

A fireball that lit up the skies over the North Island on Thursday night was probably just a meteor, experts say, rather than anything suspicious. 

Online reports suggest it could be seen across Northland, Auckland, Coromandel and Bay of Plenty just after 9:20pm.

"Did anyone just recently happen to be looking towards the north and see the bit of shit come through the atmosphere and break into bits?" one person wrote on a popular Auckland Facebook group. "F**king insane... was easily two-foot long in the sky."

"I’m on the Kaipara Harbour and that just flew past my window, insane," replied another. 

Several people jumped onto the WeatherWatch website to say they saw it too. 

"When I got up this morning we had a couple dozen eyewitness reports from overnight - normally we get one or two a day," head analyst Philip Duncan told Newshub. 

People from Waihi, Whangārei, Rangitoto Island, Avondale, the North Shore and more described the stunning sight, which reportedly had a "pinky red tail". 

"I was driving West up my driveway in Totara Valley (Thames) around 9:20pm last night and saw a very bright yellow/orange fiery object with a long tail just over the ridge," wrote Elizabeth. "It was heading north at a very low angle before it either disappeared over the ridge or faded out. It was so bright and lasted so long I was convinced it must have been a firework."

"Was sitting outside chatting when I saw a massive 'shooting star' that may have been a comet, plane on fire or a missile," said another. "It was massive to the blind eye." 

"Been outside recording the sky getting mocked by my wife," added Aaron from Rotorua.

With recent news of space station de-orbits and satellite detonations, it's perhaps not surprising some thought it might not simply be a meteor.

"Another satellite burning up," said one person on Facebook, another adding it was the "best bet". 

"They sprinkling the vaccine over us now, for the people that don't want to get the jab," another said, presumably joking. 

Experts at Stardome said based on the evidence, it was likely just a meteor - which can look impressive at night. 

The Earth is currently passing through the Geminid meteor shower, which is expected to peak on Tuesday night.