Dozens report meteor zipping across North Island

11:13 am on 24 July 2019

Dozens of people in the North Island have reported seeing a bright meteor flashing across the sky yesterday evening.

Forecasting centre WeatherWatch has had dozens of people log sightings on its meteor reports page.

Most people recorded seeing the event around 6.35pm, and said it flashed across the sky for 3-5 seconds. Reports came from Morrinsville, Hamilton, Tauranga, Auckland, Whangārei and Northland.

Many observers reported the meteor was quite large in size, bright orange, and had a spark trail following it.

One Coatesville resident said: "Looked exactly like the generic google search image of a comet. The tail slowly got smaller and then the entire thing vanished (burnt out?) before the horizon. Coolest thing I've ever seen!!!" [sic]

The object was also seen to be heading southbound, with some people suggesting it was heading south-east.

WeatherWatch's Philip Duncan said the site gets 10-15 meteor reports from around the world everyday, but it was a surprise to wake up this morning to more than 30 reports made by people in the upper North Island.

"It's the biggest feedback we've had on a meteor in the last several years, maybe even this decade," Mr Duncan said.

"I'm a bit annoyed I didn't see it, I was sitting there with my curtains open and everything!"

Mr Duncan said there have been no photos so far, which is quite normal because it happens so quickly.

One Ellerslie resident who saw the flashing light suggested it could be space debris from the Chinese space station Tiangong-2, which was deorbited on 19 July.

"At about 6:30pm in Ellerslie, Auckland I saw what at first I thought was a firework. It continued to arch over well beyond the range of a firework and then burned out. Could this be part of the Chinese space station?," they wrote.

Auckland Astronomical Society spokesperson Andrew Buckingham said from the sounds of the sightings the item was likely to be a meteor or fireball, rather than a debris from a space station.

Meteors are asteroids or rocks that can be as small as a pea, fireballs are meteors that are on the larger side and tend to be brighter.

"If it was whizzing across the sky quickly it was probably a nice bright fireball," Mr Buckingham said. "Space stations tend to take several minutes."

He said meteors enter Earth's atmosphere all the time.

"To see them you have to be in the right place at the right time, and it was a nice clear night last night."