A bright blaze of light streaked across the sky over New Zealand on Wednesday night just after 10 p.m. local time. It’s believed to be a meteor.
According to the New Zealand Herald, a “huge blinding flash” and an intense explosion of blue and white light was seen over much of the country, from Whangarei in the north to upper South Island. Reports of multiple sonic booms, in particular from the Waikato and South Auckland areas, appear to be trending, according to WeatherWatch.co.nz, which is collecting eyewitness reports. Some people heard a low rumble after seeing the lights, others felt as if their house was shaking.
Here’s a video captured on a dash cam from YouTube user Josh Sherborne:
These sightings are consistent with meteoritic material or space rocks entering Earth’s atmosphere, David Britten of Auckland's Stardome told New Zealand Herald. When these kinds of material enter, loud booms typically follow a bright explosion. "It's a bit like watching fireworks in the distance,” he adds. “It takes quite some time for that soundwave to reach the ground.”
"If it's seen in various parts of the country it is most likely an object breaking up and burning up as it passes through our atmosphere," retired Auckland University lecturer Joel Schiff told Stuff. "This happens all the time somewhere on Earth but it is special for New Zealand because it was such a small target area surrounded by so much water."
In a tweet, Auckland Civil Defence & Emergency Management confirms that it was definitely not lightning. This is a map of lightning strikes, Radio New Zealand explains, and the lines were not a meteor streak, but those usually associated with radio communications.
— Auckland CDEM (@AucklandCDEM) February 11, 2015