Spectacular meteor streaks over NSW coast

A chunk of space rock (circled in white) falls to earth in spectacular fashion on Saturday night and is captured on John Walsh's dashcam.
A chunk of space rock (circled in white) falls to earth in spectacular fashion on Saturday night and is captured on John Walsh's dashcam.

A chunk of space rock fell to earth in spectacular fashion on Saturday night, witnessed by hundreds across St George and Sutherland Shire.

Reports from across NSW and Victoria spoke of a green fireball low in the sky around 6.30pm, and travelling slowly and brightly enough to be clearly seen by many.

One of those to witness the meteor streak was John Walsh who captured the spectacular light show on his dashcam as he drove through Kogarah.

“Stopped at the lights on the Princes Highway [on Saturday] and we saw a meteor/space junk disintegrate in the sky,” Walsh posted on YouTube.

Posted by John Walsh

David Finlay is a keen observer of astronomical events, and administrator of the Australian Meteor Reports Facebook group.

He said he was “extremely confident” given the various reports coming in that Saturday’s meteor had survived the entry to Earth’s atmosphere.

He is calling for more videos and observations to help pinpoint its resting place.

“The best observation we have is from Phil at Tuross Heads, who watched it go pretty much right over his head, crossing the coast between Tuross and Moruya,” Mr Finlay told Fairfax Media on Monday.

“It not only confirmed it crossed the coastline, but an important observation he made was to say he saw it change from bright green, to bright orange, to a dull red before disappearing.”

Mr Finlay said that was the perfect description of a meteor entering “dark flight” – when a meteor was travelling through the denser atmosphere slow enough to allow it to cool down, as opposed to a really bright flare before disintegrating.

“That gives it a great chance of surviving to hit the ground.”

A screen shot from Steve Dunn's video of the meteor.

A screen shot from Steve Dunn's video of the meteor.

As for where it landed?

“We first thought somewhere in the Cooma region, but with some new observations we’re thinking a bit further north, perhaps between Michelago and Bredbo,” Mr Finlay said.

“We’re really hoping it crossed over the Deua National Park – it’s rough country so if it landed in there it’s going to be nearly impossible to find.

“We really need more footage of it, dashcam footage, security cameras, police cars that have cameras running all the time – the more we have, and preferably from outside Sydney, the better chance we have to triangulate its position.”

Anyone with observations or footage of Saturday’s event can post it to Australian Meteor Reports on Facebook where Mr Finlay and his team can collate it all.

Hollywood has a lot to answer for

David Finlay says the meteorite thought to have touched down on Saturday night could be “about the size of a football”.

However, despite what Hollywood would have us believe, it won’t have started wildfires or created a huge crater.

“Perhaps surprisingly, meteorites make a divot or punch a little into the ground depending on the surface, but they don’t create huge craters,” he said.

“And because they fall to the ground ‘dark’ they don’t start fires. In fact you could likely pick them up straight away – they may be a little warm to the touch.

“Hollywood has a lot to answer for!

“It’s more like dropping a rock out of the window of a 747 and it landing with a thud.”

For those out looking for the resting place of Saturday’s fireball, be on the lookout for something resembling a large charcoal brickette for your barbecue, Mr Finlay said.

“The way it blazed and the light given off, we think it fragmented so there may be dozens of smaller pieces. But the final larger mass could be about the size of a grapefruit or a football.

“We’re extremely confident this landed.”

Posted by Bud L