Photo flash puzzle for all the experts

By James Ihaka

A UFO expert thinks it could be part of a meteor shower, an astronomer reckons it is "an amazing fluke" or a camera flash reflection, and the 13-year-old girl who took the picture has no idea what it is.

Opinion is divided on a photo of an unidentified flying object taken by Paddy Miller, who caught the image of what appears to be a meteor near Rotorua on January 2.

It was an overcast day when Paddy was taking pictures of the countryside with the Fujifilm finepix Z20 camera she got for Christmas.

The 13-year-old, who entered the photo in the Herald summer photo competition, thought a shot of a hill overlooking the Blue Lake would be a nice addition to her collection.

"But I was looking through my pictures a bit later and I thought to myself 'what is that?"' she said.

Paddy said she did not see the flash of light in the picture when she took it.

"It was a complete fluke for me to just get that. ... I was really surprised and was showing everyone. My dad's friend was around and he was like 'wow that's amazing'."

Suzanne Hansen, director of Ufocus NZ which investigates UFOs, said the picture could have been of a meteor from the Quadrantids shower which she said had been intense in activity around the time the picture was taken.

"They are, of course, more noticeable in the night sky than in the daytime," she said.

But Dr Grant Christie of the StarDome observatory said it was "exceedingly unlikely" the object was a meteor. A likely explanation could be a reflection of the camera flash off the car window.

Dr Christie said the camera's exposure time was 1/280th of a second and said the possibility of capturing a meteor at that speed was minuscule.

There also had been no reports of a sonic boom or other sightings of the meteor.

"That is an interesting photo - and an amazing fluke if it is bona fide," he said.

"A daylight fireball would probably occur once every five years so 1/300th of a second in a five year event? I don't think so."

Canterbury University physics professor Jack Baggaley said it would be very unusual to see a meteor through thick cloud as they produced their light about 90 kilometres above the earth.

- NZ Herald

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