Last updated 08:36 03/04/2012
The glowing ball steaking across the sky that fascinated the country last night was most likely a meteor.
The bright and colourful light was spotted in the lower North Island and the South Island, including Wellington, Blenheim and Christchurch, about 6.30pm.
While some initially suspected the ball and the long trail behind it was from an aircraft, with a condensation trail from the engine, Carter Observatory programme manager John Field said it was most likely to be a particularly bright meteor, known as a fireball.
“Fireballs happen on average about once a day around the world, but it’s just rare to be in the right place at the right time.
“They would so often appear in isolated areas away from cities, or at 3am when everyone is sleeping, so we were very lucky to get to see such a sight.”
There were no satellites due to re-enter the atmosphere at the time, and its unusual flight path ruled it out as an aircraft, Field said.
“It was seen across too large a geographic area to be an aircraft, especially when you consider it’s non-linear flight path.”
Because of the positioning of the sun at the time, the fireball appeared extra bright in the sky.
“It was high up so was catching the light from the setting sun, which made it easily visible for so many people.
“It was a fantastic combination of elements that came together to put on quite a show.”
– © Fairfax NZ News