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Meteor Explosion Pin-Pointed

12 JULY 1999


The meteor that raced over New Zealand skies last week exploded about 25km northeast of Hawera at an altitude of 37km, the Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences Limited (GNS) said today.

The point of the explosion was calculated by using recordings from nine seismographs from Ruapehu to New Plymouth. The New Plymouth data came from seismographs around Mt Egmont which are operated by the Taranaki Regional Council.

GNS seismologist Terry Webb used the speed of sound in air to work out the meteor’s “terminal detonation”.

The location was a good fit with eye witness accounts of the explosion, although Dr Webb emphasised there was a margin of error in the calculations due to variations in air temperature and wind speed.

“ This clarifies the location of the explosion that witnesses saw and heard, but it doesn’t tell us the meteor’s trajectory or whether any fragments reached the ground,’’ Dr Webb said.

The information had been shared with numerous researchers both in New Zealand and overseas.

Andrew Buckingham, of the Auckland Observatory, said the observatory had 21 confirmed sightings of the explosion and all agreed with the seismograph derived location.


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