Yesterday evening, residents of Townsville in north Queensland looking out their windows would have seen a massive fireball in the evening sky. A meteor, or possibly a chunk of an old satellite, falling to Earth made for an impressive twilight light show.
Image via Shutterstock
ABC News has the story; Townsville residents said the meteor had a bright blue and orange tail as it fell towards the planet, hitting the ground some distance away and causing a bright, noiseless explosion.
"It was pretty big and this thing hit like a bomb — it was huge," said Townsville homeowner Terry Robinson. "I don't know how big it was, but in the sky it looked like half a dozen jumbo jets falling out of the sky at the same time."
The meteor's blue flame would have been caused by the metals in its makeup; copper and lead are two elements that burn blue. It could have been a small asteroid or part of an old satellite or piece of space junk that fell out of orbit.
Despite looking like it was close, it's probable that the meteor eventually made landfall a long distance away. Astronomer Owen Bennedick told ABC that while most of the meteorite would have been burned up in its entry through Earth's atmosphere, any part that fell would have been distant to Townsville watchers: "Only the heavier objects make it to ground, the rest of it burns up in the atmosphere.
"My experience is that most people think it's landed just over the next door hill, but the pieces have actually landed hundreds of kilometres away. They look like they're very close but that's not necessarily the case." [ABC News]