Meteorite sighting brings avalanche of calls

This is not the actual meteor that lit up the night on Monday, but residents reported seeing a bright flash in the sky.
This is not the actual meteor that lit up the night on Monday, but residents reported seeing a bright flash in the sky.

THE Wappa Falls Observatory at Yandina was inundated with phone calls on Tuesday - 150 by midday - after a meteor or meteorite flashed across the Sunshine Coast skies on Monday night, around 8.15pm.

Wappa Falls Observatory astronomer, manager and general roustabout Owen Bennedick told the Gympie Times on Tuesday that it almost certainly was a meteorite and not a satellite breaking up.

"There are lots of reasons to come to that conclusion," Mr Bennedick said.

"Firstly, it was travelling too fast to be a satellite. Satellites travel at 5 to 7km a second while most meteors travel from 11km a second up to 105km a second.

"Secondly, no pieces were breaking off - which happens when it is a satellite; thirdly, it was a single colour - greenish with an orange tail - which means it had a fairly high copper content with some iron and finally, the angle was too steep for it to be a satellite."

It is not known if it actually landed, "but it definitely didn't land on Coolum Mountain; there was no sonic boom or rumble, and no one heard it land either."

However, some dogs at Yandina went berserk, which probably meant they heard the sonic pressure waves as it went through the earth's atmosphere. 

Very few meteorites actually do make it to the ground, Mr Bennedick said. 

"Earth receives 4000 tons of material a day. 

"A meteorite the size of a city bus is a one-in-100 year occurrence, while one the size of an average fridge is a one-in-20 year occurrence."

ANYONE who has further information or sightings about Monday night's meteorite - which would have lost at least half or even three quarters of its mass moving through the earth's atmosphere - is asked to phone the observatory's mobile number, on 0427 467 944.   

Topics:  astronomy news

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