Monday, April 22, 2024

Pakuranga eyewitnesses report fireball ‘crashing’ into Tamaki River

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Several Pakuranga residents reported seeing a bright flash of light or a “fireball” above the Tamaki River in the vicinity of Waipuna Bridge at around 6:47 pm on Monday 25 May. According to some eyewitnesses, the object was alleged to have then crashed into the water.

Reports of a “bright light” and “an explosion” flooded the east Auckland grapevine page as local people recounted what they had seen. Many speculated a meteor, a rocket from nearby Rocket Lab, or even a flare was responsible.

Corinne Hill, whose property on Pakuranga Rd backs on to the river saw “A Bright orange-red (object) about the size of 3 full moons joined together. It (sic) was travelling at speed over the water till it appeared to hit the water and disappeared.”

According to Hill, the object made no sound, and by the time she “went to get binoculars out” it had gone.

Waipuna bridge: did a meteorite crash land into the Tamaki River? Photo: credit BBR Contech

Ms Hill also stated the object “It appeared to grow in size as it travelled, so my initial thought was it looked like a ball of fire but then I got wondering what it was. There were cars on the bridge at the time commuting, so I was thinking one of them may have also seen it.”

Police, The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), and Stardome observatory were approached for comment.

Police spokesperson advised they had received no reports on the incident, and police had not attended any incident in relation. A CAA media contact confirmed they had also not received any report of anomalous phenomena in the area.

Grant Christie is an astronomer at Stardome Observatory, the Times asked him for theories on what the object may have been.

When it was suggested by the Times the flash may have come from a meteor, Christie acknowledged the circumstances needed for a meteor to be  ‘glowing’ as described to enter the earth’s atmosphere, would be remote.

“An object glowing at that level would have to hit the atmosphere travelling at terminal velocity” said Christie.

He added “Meteorites start burning up at around 100km out of the atmosphere, and continue burning up until they are dust.”

Waipuna Bridge as viewed north-east from Corinne Hill’s yard just after the glowing ball was seen. Photo Corinne Hill

Christie said it would be an extremely rare event to see something (a meteorite) at night, and velocity and angle to the ground of the projectile would have to be determined before the meteorite hypothesis could be upheld. A meteor that big would make a “pretty big splash” he said, making it at odds with the lack of sound reported by Hill.

To produce a glow of the magnitude described, the object would have to be significantly bigger than the grapefruit-sized space rock that crashed through the roof of a resident’s property in Ellerslie in 2004.

On that occasion, wealthy collectors clamoured to own a celestial bolide. The rock fetched $60,000 and is now on display in a museum. “There is a big collectors market for space matter” says Christie, and he speculated that the value of the object now known as ‘The Waipuna glow’, if real, would be considerably higher.

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