Wellington meteor shock wave picked up by earthquake sensors

Source: 1News

A meteoroid that lit up the lower North Island shortly before 2pm on Thursday generated a shock wave powerful enough to be picked up by earthquake seismometers as it burned its way through the atmosphere.

Seismologist and principal scientist at GNS Science, Stephen Bannister, said the shock wave was picked up by six different sensors spaced 53 km apart, from the furthest point north in the Upper Hutt to Palliser Bay in the south.

"GeoNet earthquake seismometers around the Wellington region appear to have recorded the atmospheric shock wave from the meteor, which likely weakly coupled to the ground."

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"The differences in the arrival times of the signal across the six seismometers are consistent with the speed of sound in air."

There were also dozens of reports from members of the public who felt the shockwave across an area that stretched from Hawke's Bay and New Plymouth to Blenheim.

Space scientist Dr Duncan Steel said the object was likely to be a macrometeoroid falling to the earth at a speed of over 30km per second.

"To be seen during the daytime it would need to be quite large, something the size of a rugby ball or bigger... coming in very quickly."

"That's what makes them rare."