Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Fireball over Perth, Western Australia.

Witnesses have reported seeing a bright fireball over Perth and the Gidgegannup Hills in Western Australia at about 8.30 am local time on Monday 9 March 2015.  A fireball is defined as a meteor (shooting star) brighter than the planet Venus. These are typically caused by pieces of rock burning up in the atmosphere, but can be the result of man-made space-junk burning up on re-entry. On this occasion a number of people filmed the incident and registered reports with the Fireballs in the Sky research group at Curtin University, who are confident on the available evidence that this was a meteorite. One witness described seeing a meteorite fall to Earth in the Gidgegannup Hills but was later unable to find any trace of this. However Phil Bland of the Department of Applied Geology at Curtain University suspects this report is erroneous, as the bright lights seen in fireballs are caused by airbursts in which rocky meteorites explode due to friction induced heating high in the atmosphere, and any fragments reaching the ground usually do so several minutes later.

The 9 March 2015 Western Australia as seen from a dashboard camera in Perth. News.com.

Objects of this size probably enter the Earth's atmosphere several times a year, though unless they do so over populated areas they are unlikely to be noticed. They are officially described as fireballs if they produce a light brighter than the planet Venus. It is possible, though unlikely, that this object will have produced meteorites that reached the surface (an object visible in the sky is a meteor, a rock that falls from the sky and can be physically held and examined is a meteorite), though most meteorites come from larger objects that penetrate further into the atmosphere before exploding, and therefore have a better chance of producing fragments that reach the surface.

See also...

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