Tuesday, September 12, 2006


It was a big bang, a sonic boom accompanied by 10-15 smaller explosions. Time: about 14.50pm. All the dogs in the neighbourhood were barking.
I wish it landed in my backyard!

Big bang rattles Canterbury

Sep 12, 2006

The massive bang that rattled Christchurch just before 3pm on Tuesday appears to have been caused by a meteorite, but it is still not clear whether it bounced back into space or broke up and crashed to Earth.

The sonic boom was so powerful it shook buildings across the Canterbury region, and even registered on seismic drums used to monitor earthquakes.

Hundreds of people called police about the bang and several witnesses reported seeing the meteorite stream across the sky in Hinds. Seconds later it was spotted over Hanmer Springs in North Canterbury.

Many said the bang was so loud they thought it was a plane blowing up or an earthquake.

"We received about a hundred calls in a ten minute period - 25 percent of those were to the fire service, the rest were to police. Essentially all people could tell us was that they heard a loud bang," Inspector Mike Coulter says.

Police believe it was space junk re-entering the atmosphere, but there have been no reports of damage.

However meteorite hunters in the South Island may be in for a tough time searching for the remnants of the rock.

Professor John Baggeley, who operates a meteor radar for Canterbury University, says finding it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

He says people expecting to find a smouldering rock will be disappointed as it will be cold now that it has come to Earth.

A Canterbury astronomer says the meteor was probably travelling low and at great speed.

"When it hits the atmosphere it creates a ram phenomenon - that is the pressure of the atmosphere moving against it is what heats it up. Being so bright to be seen during the day and making a sound like a solar boom it would officially be called a bolite for astronomical purposes, which is an unusual event," associate professor at the Canterbury Astronomical Society, Euan Mason, says.

The last big meteor sighting in the South Island was in the Nelson region nearly two years ago.

Meteorite Wakes Up Christchurch
View larger imageA meteorite© Getty Images
12/09/2006IRNA massive bang which rattled Christchurch just before three o'clock this afternoon seems to have been caused by a meteorite.

Several witnesses report seeing the meteorite streak across the sky in Hinds, while Christchurch police say they believe it was space junk re-entering the atmosphere.

There have been no reports so far of damage, though some witnesses told our newsroom it shook their entire house and sent some of them running outside. Many Christchurch residents say the bang was so loud they thought it was a plane blowing up or an earthquake.

Resident superintendent Alan Gilmore at the Mount John Observatory in Christchurch says it seems like the kind of noise a meteorite would make.

He says any object from space which penetrates lower than about 60km above the ground then the sonic boom it causes would get down to the ground.

Professor Jack Baggeley of Canterbury University runs a meteor radar. He says these kind of things are fairly common, and one of them hits the land area of New Zealand about once a year.

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