New Zealand could appear to be underneath meteor bombardment in the mean time. After an enormous meteor exploded above the ocean close to Wellington on July 7, making a sonic increase that could possibly be heard throughout the underside of the South Island, a smaller fireball was captured two weeks later above Canterbury.


Fireballs Aotearoa, a collaboration between astronomers and citizen scientists which goals to get better freshly fallen meteorites, has acquired plenty of questions on these occasions. One of the vital frequent is in regards to the brilliant inexperienced coloration, and whether or not it’s the identical inexperienced produced by auroras.

BrightGreenMeteors 5A brilliant inexperienced meteor. (Greg Worth)

Inexperienced fireballs have been reported and filmed in New Zealand frequently. Vibrant meteors usually sign the arrival of a piece of asteroid, which might be anyplace between a couple of centimeters to a meter in diameter when it comes crashing by the ambiance.

A few of these asteroids include nickel and iron and so they hit the ambiance at speeds of as much as 60 km (37 miles) per second. This releases an infinite quantity of warmth in a short time, and the vaporized iron and nickel radiate inexperienced gentle.

However is that this the identical as the intense inexperienced of an aurora? For the newest meteor, the reply is especially no, however it’s truly not that easy.

BrightGreenMeteors 5An Aurora Australis noticed from the Worldwide Area Station. (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-ND)

The colours of a meteor path

The inexperienced glow of the aurora is attributable to oxygen ions within the higher ambiance, created by collisions between atmospheric oxygen molecules and particles ejected by the solar.

These oxygen ions recombine with electrons to provide oxygen atoms, however the electrons can persist in an excited state for a number of seconds. In an power transition often called “forbidden” as a result of it doesn’t obey the same old quantum guidelines, they then radiate the auroral inexperienced gentle at 557 nm wavelength.


A meteor can even shine by this route, however provided that it is extraordinarily quick. Very quick meteors warmth up within the skinny ambiance above 100 km the place auroras kind.

If you wish to see a inexperienced auroral wake from a meteor, be careful for the Perseid meteor bathe, which has now began and can peak on August 13 within the Southern Hemisphere.

Additionally arriving at about 60 km per second, the Perseids are extraordinarily quick bits of the comet Swift-Tuttle. Some Perseids path a wonderful, glowing and distinctly inexperienced wake behind them, notably in the beginning of their path.

As soon as the Canterbury meteor hit on July 22, the capricious winds of the higher ambiance twisted the gently glowing path, leading to a pale yellow glow in direction of the tip (as seen within the GIF under, additionally recorded by Greg Worth for an earlier meteor).

That is attributable to sodium atoms being frequently excited in a catalytic response involving ozone.

BrightGreenMeteors 5(Greg Worth)

Are we being bombarded by meteors?

Sure and no. The arrival of huge, booming inexperienced meteors and the dropping of meteorites is not uncommon in New Zealand, however it’s uncommon to get better the rock. Fireballs Aotearoa is working to enhance the restoration price.

In a median 12 months, maybe 4 meteorites hit New Zealand. We’re encouraging citizen scientists to construct their very own meteor digicam techniques to allow them to catch these occasions.

By evaluating the meteor towards the starry background and triangulating pictures caught by a number of cameras, we will pin down the meteor’s place within the ambiance to inside tens of meters.

BrightGreenMeteors 5The July 22 meteor as seen by a specialised meteor digicam. (Campbell Duncan/NASA/CAMS NZ)

Not solely does that assist us discover the rock, however it tells us what the pre-impact orbit of the meteoroid was, which in flip tells us which a part of the photo voltaic system it got here from. It is a fairly environment friendly means of sampling the Photo voltaic System with out ever having to launch an area mission.

BrightGreenMeteors 5(Fireballs Aotearoa and Worldwide Meteor Affiliation)

Above: Witness studies and high-resolution meteor cameras assist to calculate a meteor’s trajectory. This map exhibits the approximate trajectory of the July 22 meteor on the high of the purple form within the heart.

Fireballs Aotearoa is quickly populating Otago with meteor cameras and there are half a dozen extra in different elements of the South Island. The North Island is not properly lined but, and we’re eager for extra individuals (in both island) to construct or purchase a meteor digicam and hold it pointed on the sky.

Then subsequent time a brilliant meteor explodes with a increase above New Zealand, we might be able to decide up the meteorite and do some good science with it.

Many thanks for the enter from Jim Rowe of the UK Fireball Alliance, and Greg Worth who photographed the July 22 meteor and the persistent practice.The Conversation

Jack Baggaley, Professor Emeritus Physics and Astronomy, College of Canterbury.

This text is republished from The Dialog underneath a Artistic Commons license. Learn the unique article.


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