Hundreds record long-lasting bright fireball over Australia, meteorites likely near Canberra

A very bright fireball streaked across the night sky over New South Wales and Victoria, Australia around 08:30 UTC (18:30 local time) on August 4, 2018. The event lasted for more than 8 seconds and was recorded by hundreds of people. Astronomers said the object could have been between the size of a basketball and a fridge.

Hundreds of people reported seeing the meteor, David Finlay of Australian Meteor Reports said. Witnesses described a spectacular, bright orange or red to green and blue fireball.

“It was traveling east to west at super speed. It had a beautiful long bright blue tail. It split in two and then vanished. I’ve spent the last hour researching fireballs and now I’m completely hooked,” Ms. Javs wrote on AMR’s Facebook page.

Finlay said up to 700 people had joined his Facebook page since the sighting.

“I’m very confident that this meteor was large enough to survive to the ground,” he said. 

According to his preliminary analysis, meteorites might have fallen around Cooma, near the Snowy Mountains south of Canberra.

“Judging from the brightness of the meteor, it was most likely a large fragment, between 30 and 70 cm (1 – 2.3 feet) in length,” said astrophysicist Brad E Tucker of Mt. Stromlo Observatory at the Australian National University. “It does look to be slower moving than a normal meteor,” he said.

Tucker added that none of the observatory’s sky cameras picked up the meteor, which suggested it did not make it west of Canberra.

According to 7 News, the fireball was captured on hundreds of dashcams across the east and even made a fleeting appearance on Seven News as it passed behind an oblivious Michael Usher.

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“If it was a large enough object, somebody might come across a rather melted looking clump of rock – that may well be it,” Professor John O’Bryne from the Sydney Institute for Astronomy said.

Tucker said he doesn’t think the meteor was a part of Perseid meteor shower because the shower is mostly seen in the northern hemisphere. In NSW and Victoria, they are observed later in the night or during the early morning hours.

Featured image: Fireball over eastern Australia on August 4, 2018. Image credit: Bud L

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