'Sparkly' silver light seen in Otago sky

By Mark Price of the Otago Daily Times

A bright light was seen descending behind Treble Cone. Photo / Otago Daily Times
A bright light was seen descending behind Treble Cone. Photo / Otago Daily Times

A bright "sparkly" silver object seen falling from the sky in Otago on Sunday afternoon was probably a rarely seen daylight meteor.

The Otago Daily Times received reports from about a dozen people in at least six locations about the object seen between 2.45pm and 3pm on Sunday.

Mark Davis of Wanaka saw an "extremely bright" silver light dropping to Earth as he was driving from Omarama towards the Lindis Pass at 2.45pm on Sunday.

He glimpsed it only briefly and described it as "sparkly".

Three people, including Wanaka farmer John Leith and Chris Scott of Christchurch saw it from west Wanaka.

Mr Leith said it was a "silver flash" coming out of the sky.

"It looked almost like three rockets joined together with their tails pointing towards the Earth."

It was travelling so fast he did not even have time to say to others in the group: "Hey, have a look at this."

Ms Scott said it was just like a shooting star.

"It was very silvery; like a sparkler glittering."

Sean O'Connell of Wanaka and his golfing partner saw the object passing over Mt Roy where "it seemed to splutter out".

"Definitely bright; had a sparkly, fiery trail, and some smoke."

Mr O'Connell said the object, which he assumed was a meteor, seemed to "fizz" and was similar to a flare but higher and faster.

The superintendent of the University of Canterbury's Mt John Observatory, Alan Gilmore, said that from the descriptions the object was likely to have been a "daylight meteor".

"They are pretty rare because they have got to be exceedingly bright to be seen."

Mr Gilmore could recall just two previous occasions when daylight meteors were reported in New Zealand - one in Hawkes Bay in 1971.

The brief and "sparkly" appearance of the object supported the idea it was a meteor.

"They are very fast and so generally you don't see them for much longer than a second, unless they are on a very low trajectory."

Mr Gilmore said meteors were falling all of the time but to have been visible, the one on Sunday would have been bigger than usual.

He said at a "wild guess" it could have been as big as a baseball to begin with but would have burnt out before hitting the ground.

"If the same thing had happened at night time it would have been quite spectacular. It would have lit up the whole countryside."

- Otago Daily Times

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