In what scientists believe was likely a meteor drop, New Zealanders across the North Island have reported rumbling, crackling sounds, a fireball, and a huge flash of light streaking across the sky on Thursday afternoon.
Local media outlets and social media were flooded with reports and queries about the sight, with some witnesses describing rumbles, bangs, a crackling sound in their ears, hair standing on end, rattling windows, or a streak or explosion of light, followed by a smoke trail, as reported by news agencies.
MetService, short for Meteorological Service of New Zealand Limited, tweeted that an “interesting signature” from the Wellington Radar was observed at 1:52 pm NZST (7:22 am IST). MetService posted an image depicting a cross-section of the atmosphere, “with what may be the smoke trail of the meteor that passed over the lower North Island.
An interesting signature from the Wellington Radar, at 1:52pm.— MetService (@MetService) July 7, 2022
This shows a cross-section of the atmosphere, with what may be the smoke trail of the meteor ☄ that passed over the lower North Island.
It’s about the right place and time, and it’s not meteorological. pic.twitter.com/2pY3WqzenT
Plumber Curtis Powell captured the phenomenon on his dashcam while driving north of Shannon at 1:39 pm on Thursday. “We were just driving to a job in Shannon when I saw a blue line falling in the sky, then a massive bright light,” he said. “Realised my dashcam was recording and downloaded the video – once-in-a-lifetime spectacle.”
As reported by a news agency, some eyewitnesses described hearing crackling as the object moved through the sky, in what Steel said was likely an “electrophonic sound”. Allan Gilmore of Canterbury University’s Mt John Observatory said in a radio interview that meteors, and their accompanying electrical charge, could cause some people’s hair to stand on end. “People with frizzy hair often hear it, while the people who don’t have frizzy hair don’t hear it,” Gilmore said.
What scientists have to say:
Seismologists at GeoNet, New Zealand’s geological hazard monitoring system, picked up a presumed sound wave from the mysterious object. Also, MetService scientists believe they picked up the smoke trail of the object on radar.
According to the article, Dr. Duncan Steel, a Wellington-based scientist who has worked for NASA, said he has seen only one daytime meteor in his lifetime. He explained that daytime meteors are due to micrometeoroids in the atmosphere coming in very quickly, typically 30 kilometers per second.
Steel said that to be seen during the daytime, the meteor would need to be quite large, something the size of a rugby ball or bigger. He explained that that is what makes them “rare”. Steel also said that the crackling heard as the object moved through the sky was likely an “electrophonic sound“.