A meteor flashes across the sky of Newcastle

This is a rare type of meteor flashing across the sky above Newcastle.

Graeme Challen’s dashcam captured the moment, as he was driving east along the New England Highway towards Hexham Bridge.

“It had this incredible electric blue-green colour,” he said, adding that the colours were lost in the picture because of the headlights and streetlights.

Meteor video: The date is incorrect because it hadn't been set.

When he saw the initial flash and fireball, he thought “oh yeah, meteor”.

“It got brighter as it came in,” he said.

“I’ve seen meteors and meteor showers in the atmosphere before. They had a big white flash and looked like sparklers going off.

“But I’ve never seen one that big or that colour before.”

He believed it was a meteor, but also thought it could have been space junk.

The electric blue-green streak after the initial flash made him ponder whether it may have been some kind of UFO.

Astronomer Dave Reneke confirmed it was a meteor.

“This is a rare one called a ‘fireball’ – a larger than normal rock, possibly the size of a soccer ball moving at something like 30 kilometres a second,” said Dave, of Australasian Science Magazine.

“They get so hot, they literally explode in the air. They have distinct characteristics of a bright opening flash, long streaky tail and colours associated with them caused by the minerals in them all melting from the intense heat.”

When he first saw the meteor, Graeme thought, “the things you see when you haven’t got a camera”.

Then he remembered his dashcam.

“So I checked it out when I got home that night,” he said.

“Sure enough, there it was.”

He said the flash reminded him of “an electric arc”.

The object’s size appeared larger to the naked eye and the colours were much brighter than what appeared on the video.

“It more than likely ended up out in the ocean,” he said.

The American Meteor Society says nickel appears in meteors as green, magnesium as blue-white and sodium produces a bright yellow color.

The Herald’s Topics column previously reported that people saw the meteor last Thursday morning.

It noted wryly that the meteor sighting happened the morning after David Duchovny played a gig at Newcastle Exhibition & Convention Centre.

Duchovny famously played Fox Mulder in The X-Files. Bit of a meaningful coincidence, that.

Native Stargazers

Aboriginal people saw an emu shape in the stars. Image: Curnow/Glasper

Aboriginal people saw an emu shape in the stars. Image: Curnow/Glasper

Who were the first astronomers?

“As Australia has the oldest continuous culture on Earth, the first Australians were very likely to have also been the first astronomers,” astronomer Dave Reneke said.  

“Aboriginal Australians have been gazing at the night skies for thousands of years. It seems the Aboriginal people even pre-dated European stargazers, including Britain's astronomy-linked Stonehenge – estimated to have been built in 3100 BC. 

“Star patterns were important for Aboriginal people. At different times of the year, the ‘emu in the sky’ is oriented so it appears to be either running or sitting down. Depending upon its position, some Aboriginal tribes knew it was time to hunt for emus or collect their eggs.”

topics@theherald.com.au