3 September 2020

Meteoric show of light catches Canberra's eyes in the sky

| Michael Weaver
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Meteor caught on dashcam

An image of the meteor captured by dashcam footage. Photo: Abby Ching.

Eyes across the region turned skyward last night when a large meteor appeared, with sightings noted in most Canberra suburbs and surrounding areas.

Descriptions ranged from a “tail of light with a greeny, gold colour” to a “massive tail that changes colours for about three to five seconds”.

Dr Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist with ANU, told Region Media the fireball was definitely a meteor and it could be seen from Sydney to northern Victoria and west to Canberra after about 6:30 pm.

It was seen in Canberra shortly before 6:45 pm.

“The blue and green colouring that could be seen was actually iron and nickel burning up as the meteor entered the earth’s atmosphere,” Dr Tucker said.

“We think it was about half a metre to a metre wide and there were also reports of a sonic boom around the Snowy Mountains, which means there could potentially be some fragments in the Berridale and Jindabyne area.”

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Dr Tucker said the first sightings of the meteor were on the NSW Central Coast before it went on a southerly trajectory west of Sydney and towards Canberra.

The Mount Stromlo Observatory also captured footage of the event last night.

The fireball also lit up social media, with sightings of the meteor reported in the suburbs of Higgins, Kambah, Chapman, Mawson, Gungahlin, as well as Bungendore, Carwoola and Lake George.

“I just saw it go over Civic and watched it burn out over Lake Burley Griffin. It had a massive tail for about three to five seconds, then was glowing a greeny gold colour for another two seconds, then looked like it exploded,” said Mark Hogg.

Freya Merrell saw it from the Federal Highway just north of Lake George.

“It looked like a shooting star or satellite at first but then became bigger and moved pretty fast, turning from white in colour to a green and red colour before vanishing on the horizon.”

Mel Newton spotted the meteor from Mawson.

“It came from a south-west direction and I watched it burn out in a south-eastern direction. It had a massive tail that changes colours for about three to five seconds, then was glowing a greeny gold colour. It was a magical sight,” she said.

Abby Ching was driving home at about 6:43 pm when her dashcam captured footage of the meteor from Belconnen Way. The meteor can be seen on the right of the footage below.

Dr Tucker said the meteor wouldn’t have been large enough to create a crater and scientists had no warning it was coming.

“This was just one of these meteors we get from time to time. There is, of course, the one we know about that is predicted to hit the day before the US election. We think that one will be about two metres,” he said.

He added that scientists at Curtin University and ANU are working on a project to set up cameras in outback Australia that will be able to more accurately track space events such as meteors.

“This will help us accurately predict the path of a meteor and its landing and also where it came from in space. This will help us massively to better understand the solar system.”

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