Update (16:00 PST Dec. 14th): Eyewitness accounts are becoming more detailed, if you were in the Auckland area at 10pm (December 13th) and you saw something, please let me know (by leaving a comment below). Please give as detailed an account as possible, including your location and the direction at which you saw the meteorite. Hopefully we’ll piece this event together…
A fire erupted in an Auckland warehouse shortly after several eyewitness reported seeing a meteorite over the North Island of New Zealand. One witness (named “Mike”) even went as far to say that he watched the fiery object hit the Ponsonby area of the city, followed by an exploding noise.
The time of the several eyewitness reports (not amateur astronomer reports I want to point out) and the start of the blaze appears to correlate (although the local media is a little sketchy about the details at the moment). Apparently the fire caused serious roof damage to the warehouse and there was one minor casualty (a man who happened to be in the building at the time). However, none of the surrounding buildings were touched.
The meteorite was observed at around 10pm last night, and the fire was eventually extinguished at 11:30pm.
Before we go leaping to conclusions, blaming the property damage on cosmic pay-back, we’ll have to wait for more details. If this meteorite had so many eyewitnesses, one would hope the bright event was caught on a camera at some point. It would be nice to find out whether there was an all-sky camera or some kind of survey peering into the night sky at the time. As with the Colorado fireball last week, and the Saskatchewan fireball in November, there were no shortages of CCTV camera images, police car videos, camcorder snaps and observatory all-sky camera videos of the sky.
Although Auckland stands just as much chance of being hit by a meteorite as the rest of the world, New Zealand isn’t exactly a big target. Plus, I think the police will be having words with the guy who “just happened” to be in the building at the time. Unless he loves his job that much or he had a late project to work on…? I don’t know, but I doubt the fire investigator’s first priority will be to look for meteorite fragments.
Call me cynical, but I think “Exhibit A” will be a petrol canister and not a chunk of charred rock from outer space. Place your bets now, I’ll update this article with news as I get it.
A New Zealand-based Astroengine.com reader followed up this article with her account of the possibility of a meteorite causing the Ponsonby fire:
I saw the meteorite from the top of Mount Eden and I have a BSc in Geology so have a good understanding of what I saw. The blinding green flash was the meteorite entering our atmosphere, it didn’t seem to break the sound barrier as it entered. It looked like it was burning out and left a vapor trail that hung for about five minutes. It was going very fast and would have been burning at about 2,000 degrees, the same as basaltic magma. To clarify, a meteorite is smaller than a metre in diameter and they are not that rare. The meteorite was travelling towards the Ponsonby area and I am not at all suprised that it caused a building to ignite. – Melissa (comment below)
This is interesting as this appears to be the most detailed eyewitness account so far, thank you Melissa for your help. Were you in Auckland at the time of the blaze? Your account could help piece together what happened. Feel free to leave a comment and I’ll credit you in this article. Thanks!
Source: NZ Herald