22 May 2023

Meteor lights up North Queensland skies

| Matt Nicholls
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A still from a Rio Tinto Weipa camera captured the meteor entering the earth’s atmosphere.

A still from a Rio Tinto Weipa camera at Andoom mine captured the meteor entering the earth’s atmosphere.

SOCIAL media lit up almost as much as the skies of Cape York on Saturday night after a meteor blazed through the atmosphere, exploded, and came to earth with a boom.

Residents across the Peninsula reported seeing the sky light up.

At Croydon, the same visual occurred, although it was followed by a loud boom, indicating the meteor likely struck the ground nearby.

Dr Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist at Australian National University, told Guardian Australia the rock was likely between 0.5 and 1 metre in size, making it a smaller to average sized meteor, and was likely travelling up to 150,000km/h.

Most meteors are made of stony chondrite, but the greenish colour prior to impact, in this case, was most likely caused by overheating of iron and nickel fragments as the rock broke apart before it hit the ground.

The impact of the rock with Earth would not have left a crater, Dr Tucker said, as the rock would have fragmented considerably by the time it reached the surface.

Despite its flaming appearance, caused by friction on its entry into the atmosphere, most of the rock would still be frozen by the time it landed.

“It essentially does a belly flop. The friction builds up and causes that glow and then it hits breaking point, which causes the huge flash and the sonic boom,” Dr Tucker told Guardian Australia.

Tucker said the sonic boom was “the part we worry about with most meteors”.

“It’s a mid-air detonation, so if it’s over a populated area, that can cause the damage,” Dr Tucker said.

“This one is on the small side.”

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