INDEPENDENT NEWS

NZ’s Great Meteorite Hunt

Published: Mon 11 Mar 2024 08:45 AM
Green Fireball
A meteorite came through the roof of a house in Ellerslie back in 2004. It bounced off the couch, hit the ceiling and ended up on the carpet under the television. Because it was day-time no one saw it enter the atmosphere, so it gave the house owners quite a start in the next-door room. Apart from that, the Mokoia (Whanganui) meteorite which fell in 1908 is the only New Zealand meteorite to have been recovered soon after it fell.
The other seven confirmed New Zealand meteorites were mostly found by farmers over the last 165 years – they are Wairarapa from 1863, Makarewa 1879, Morven 1925, View Hill 1953, Waingaromia 1970, Dunganville 1976 and Kimbolton 1976.
The Kimbolton meteorite for example got stuck in a set of harrows a couple of times, and the Waingaromia rock was pulled out of the ground by a boy as the sheep were hitting their feet on it and it was surprisingly heavy.
In an average year, about four meteorites land on NZ and over long spans of time, that adds up to quite a sprinkling across the land. So, it is not surprising that every now and then, one of these extraterrestrial visitors is found.
Fireballs Aotearoa is launching a nationwide search for further meteorites that are quite possibly sitting on backsteps holding the door open or on mantelpieces. The stone that grandpa claimed was a meteorite. Or that out-of-place rock still sitting in the paddock.
Of course, most of these won’t be the real deal but its likely that there are several out there waiting to be confirmed as New Zealand’s tenth meteorite.
Meteorites can tell us much about the formation of the solar system four and a half billion years ago. The most instructive are fresh falls which haven’t been weathered on Earth which is why Fireballs Aotearoa has recently set up a network of 110 cameras looking for the fireballs and meteors that get low enough to land a rock onto the ground. This camera network is a collaboration between members of the public, schools, universities, observatories, and the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand.
If you believe you might have a meteorite, get in touch with Fireballs Aotearoa at meteorites@rasnz.org.nz or through fireballs.nz and our scientists will sort through the submissions. If they believe your sample is a strong candidate for being a meteorite they will start you on the process that may lead to it being identified as New Zealand’s 10th meteorite!

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