Fireball over Southern North Island

An object entered the atmosphere over New Zealand’s southern North island this afternoon, creating a spectacular fireball that was observed from Palmerston North to Wellington.

Thursday 7th July 2022
Dozens of members of the public witnessed an object enter the Earth’s atmosphere over central New Zealand just before 1:50 this afternoon New Zealand Standard Time. Travelling in a southerly direction, the object was bright enough to be seen through cloud, and video captured shows an explosion as the object flares.
This article on the Stuff website shows video captured on a security camera at Plimmerton, north of Wellington, and dashcam video captured by Curtis Powell further north near Shannon.

Fireball Seen over North island

It is likely that the object was a meteoroid, a piece of ‘space rock’ rather than a man-made object re-entering the atmosphere on a decaying orbit. If so it could have been about football-sized and remnants may have survived to fall to the ground as meteorites.
New Zealand’s meteorological service, Met Service, reported what appears to be the smoke trail from the fireball captured on the Wellington rain radar at the time the event occurred.

Trail may show on MetService radar

Seismologist Stephen Bannister analysed what is presumed to be the sound wave from the fireball recorded on some of GeoNet’s seismometers. The first sound was recorded on the east side of Palliser Bay at about 1:50 p.m.

Seismometers may have captured fireball’s passage

Chris Schultz, a lightning meteorologist looked to geostationary satellite data to find evidence of the fireball’s passage through the atmosphere. He found what appears to be the fireball in video captured by the GOES 17 satellite. The trail suggests that, if any of the object survived, it may have landed near Kaikoura in the north-east South island.

Satellite may have captured fireball’s passage

Some observers have reported hearing sonic booms up to 3 minutes after the passage of the fireball, and others have reported hearing rumbles similar to those heard during earthquakes or even the sound similar to that of fireworks. A few heard near instantaneous crackling or buzzing sounds due to the electrophonic effects from the object. The Weather Watch website has collected a number of eyewitness accounts.

Eyewitness reports on Weather Watch

Meteor astronomers call a fireball that is as bright as or brighter than the full moon a bolide. With an apparent magnitude of -14 or brighter these objects are easily seen in full daylight. This Solar System debris enters the atmosphere at speeds upwards of 22 km/second and the rapid build-up of heat inside the object can cause it to explode, as today’s fireball seems to have done.

Analysis of the data recorded on video, seismographs, weather radar, and on satellite imagery will permit recovery of any meteorites if they survived the firey passage through the atmosphere and didn’t plunge into the sea east of the South Island.

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