Fireballs Aotearoa Press Release – For immediate release
www.fireballs.nz 1st September 2022
To enquire about the availability of someone to interview, please call or text Jeremy on 021 477791
Scientists are looking for asteroid fragments near Dunedin
A spectacular fireball seen over central and east Otago at 10.50 pm on the 28th of August has dropped a meteorite southeast of Middlemarch and west of Outram near Dunedin, according to scientists from Fireballs Aotearoa.
The fireball was captured on five night-sky fireball cameras deployed as part of the Fireballs Aotearoa (www.fireballs.nz) mission to track down New Zealand’s next meteorite.
Associate Professor James Scott of the University of Otago Department of Geology, who together with students and colleagues had only recently deployed three of the five fireball cameras, said: “It’s stunning. The fireball was seen from Oamaru to Invercargill, and from Queenstown to Dunedin, and we are confident that it dropped between 1 kg and 10 kg of material southeast of Middlemarch – right in the middle of our network!” The other two fireballs cameras that detected it were in based in Southland and operated by Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand Bob Evans, also of Fireballs Aotearoa.
Calculations done by Dr Denis Vida of the Global Meteor Network showed that the meteor sped in steeply from the west at about 15 km/s, lasting over 6 seconds. It decelerated to about 3 km/s at which point the bright flight stopped. He said: “This is a good sign because it means that meteorites survived until the end. A loud sonic boom followed the fireball, indicating a large size of the initial meteoroid entering the atmosphere.”
New Zealand has 9 confirmed meteorites over the last 150 years, with only two of these having been seen to “fall”. The most recently confirmed meteorite came through a roof in the suburb of Ellerslie in 2004 and originated from an asteroid – an area of rubble left over from early Solar System. The calculated trajectory of the Otago meteoroid suggests that the last one also came from the asteroid belt.
Astronomer Jeremy Taylor of Fireballs Aotearoa asked people not to trespass while looking for any meteorites: “If you live in this area, please look out for dark shiny rocks in places they shouldn’t be. If you find a piece on your land or on a road, please let us know. Don’t take any risks searching for it and don’t go where you shouldn’t.”
Dr. Michele Bannister of the School of Earth and Environmental Science at Canterbury University said: “It’ll have a distinct black surface from melting during its passage through the atmosphere. Please photograph it in place: note the location using your phone GPS and avoid touching it with your bare hands (the less contamination the better). Pick it up in fresh aluminium foil if possible, or otherwise a new clean plastic bag”
If you do find something out-of-place, then please send a photo and the coordinates to Prof. James Scott (email@example.com), who is co-ordinating the search for this rock, or via the contact page at www.fireballs.nz.
Videos and images of the event are available here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=10uNa0U_A-4mGNONOo4rKd8oetiCM3v8c&authuser=j2015scott2%40gmail.com&usp=drive_fs
For the videos, please credit: Denis Vida and Damir Šegon (Global Meteor Network) and James Scott (University of Otago)
For images, please credit: James Scott (University of Otago).
Guidance for Editors
Fireballs Aotearoa was formed in February 2022 to recover freshly fallen meteorites in New Zealand. It is a collaboration between New Zealand’s meteor camera networks and scientists at the Universities of Canterbury and Otago. More information is at www.fireballs.nz. We tweet @fireballsnz and post on Fireballs Aotearoa on Facebook.
Three of the fireball cameras that caught the meteor were funded by a Curious Minds Participatory Science Platform grant administered by the Otago Museum to James Scott. These are part of a network of 20 deployed across Otago and into Southland to try to capture the trajectory of meteors over Aotearoa, supported by the Raspberry PI Foundation and the Department of Geology at the University of Otago.
Fireballs Aotearoa has written two recent pieces on meteors: