(ORDO NEWS) — New Zealanders across the North Island are reporting rumbles, crackling, fireballs and a huge burst of light streaked across the sky on Thursday afternoon in what scientists believe was most likely a meteor.
Local media and social media have been flooded with reports and questions about the spectacle. Some witnesses described rumblings, bangs, crackling ears, hair standing on end, windows rattling, and a streak or burst of light followed by a trail of smoke.
Seismologists from Geonet have picked up the supposed sound wave from the object, and meteorologists from Metservice believe they have picked up the object – or its smoke trail – on radar.
Plumber Curtis Powell captured the phenomenon on his camera while driving north from Shannon at 1:39 p.m. Thursday.
“We were driving to work in Shannon when I saw a blue line in the sky and then a huge bright light,” he said. “Realized my camera was recording and uploaded the video – a once in a lifetime spectacle.”
On social networks, people shared photos and talked about their observations. “I’m so glad someone caught this… I thought I was hallucinating,” one commenter said.
Several people mistook the roar for an earthquake.
“We thought it was an earthquake, but the sound was wrong, more like a big heavy truck, with bumps, but at that time there were no trucks near our house. The house also vibrated slightly,” wrote one Twitter user.
Dr. Duncan Steele, a Wellington scientist who worked for Nasa, said the object was most likely a piece of a meteor, and it’s rare to see it during the day.
“I have only seen one daytime meteor in my entire life. They occur because macrometeorites in the atmosphere fly very fast, usually at a speed of 30 km per second. To be seen during the day, it must be quite large, about the size of a rugby ball or bigger is what makes them rare,” he said.
Some eyewitnesses said they heard a crack as the object moved across the sky, which Stahl said was most likely an “electrophonic sound”. Allan Gilmour of Canterbury University’s Mount John Observatory said in a radio interview that meteors and the electrical charge that accompanies them can make some people’s hair stand on end.
“People with curly hair often hear it, and people who don’t have curly hair don’t hear it,” Gilmour said.
Dr. Ian Griffin, director of the Otago Museum, urged the public to save any photos and videos. “Perhaps we can use them to triangulate the position of the object and where it landed – if it did indeed land,” he said.
“This could be very important from a scientific point of view… meteorites are quite rare in this country, so it would be very cool to get such a meteorite.”
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