A chunk of space rock fell to earth in spectacular fashion on Saturday night, prompting calls for videos and observations to help pinpoint its resting place.
Reports from across NSW and Victoria spoke of a green fireball low in the sky around 6.30pm, and travelling slowly and brightly enough to be clearly seen by many.
David Finlay is a keen observer of astronomical events, and administrator of the Australian Meteor Reports Facebook group.
He said he was “extremely confident” given the various reports coming in that Saturday’s meteor had survived the entry to Earth’s atmosphere.
“The best observation we have is from Phil at Tuross Heads, who watched it go pretty much right over his head, crossing the coast between Tuross and Moruya,” Mr Finlay told Fairfax Media on Monday.
“It not only confirmed it crossed the coastline, but an important observation he made was to say he saw it change from bright green, to bright orange, to a dull red before disappearing.”
Mr Finlay said that was the perfect description of a meteor entering “dark flight” – when a meteor was travelling through the denser atmosphere slow enough to allow it to cool down, as opposed to a really bright flare before disintegrating.
“That gives it a great chance of surviving to hit the ground.”
As for where it landed?
“We first thought somewhere in the Cooma region, but with some new observations we’re thinking a bit further north, perhaps between Michelago and Bredbo,” Mr Finlay said.
“We’re really hoping it crossed over the Deua National Park – it’s rough country so if it landed in there it’s going to be nearly impossible to find.
“We really need more footage of it, dashcam footage, security cameras, police cars that have cameras running all the time – the more we have, and preferably from outside Sydney, the better chance we have to triangulate its position.”
Anyone with observations or footage of Saturday’s event can post it to Australian Meteor Reports on Facebook where Mr Finlay and his team can collate it all.
Another of the page’s admins is geologist Ray Picard who can identify and classify the meteorite once it is uncovered.
Hollywood has a lot to answer for
David Finlay says the meteorite thought to have touched down on Saturday night could be “about the size of a football”.
However, despite what Hollywood would have us believe, it won’t have started wildfires or created a huge crater.
“Perhaps surprisingly, meteorites make a divot or punch a little into the ground depending on the surface, but they don’t create huge craters,” he said.
“And because they fall to the ground ‘dark’ they don’t start fires. In fact you could likely pick them up straight away – they may be a little warm to the touch.
“Hollywood has a lot to answer for!
“It’s more like dropping a rock out of the window of a 747 and it landing with a thud.”
For those out looking for the resting place of Saturday’s fireball, be on the lookout for something resembling a large charcoal brickette for your barbecue, Mr Finlay said.
“Imagine that deep black from being burned. Not shiny black. It will also be rounded off like a brickette, but it will be heavy like a rock.
“The way it blazed and the light given off, we think it fragmented so there may be dozens of smaller pieces. But the final larger mass could be about the size of a grapefruit or a football.
“We’re extremely confident this landed.”
Astronomy has been an interest of David Finlay’s since he was youngster.
However, while he occasionally reaches for the telescope to study the night sky, he chuckles when he says he finds that all rather boring.
“I’m more what you would call an event astronomer – and lots of exciting things can happen in our sky,” he said.
“Whenever there’s a real dynamic, in your face event, that’s where you’ll find me looking.”
Taking his interest in astro phenomenon further, he saw a need for a central location to gather information and observations.
“No official government department does that for meteors, nothing except a Curtin and National University group looks into it.
“And when people see something they tend to go to their local buy, swap sell sites on Facebook and scatter info everywhere.
“I set the page up a while ago specifically to gather these into one place.”
The Australian Meteor Reports group now has more than 3500 members, with Mr Finlay first alerted to Saturday’s spectacular event by a rush of people asking to join and sharing their experiences.