RASNZ Section: Fireballs Aotearoa

Fireballs Aotearoa is a nationwide citizen science project that unites the public, schools, observatories and universities with the overarching goal of discovering New Zealand’s next meteorite and observing meteor showers. Should there be a fireball event over New Zealand, we will triangulate the meteor path, lead the media response, and assess whether a co-ordinated search should be undertaken. The observations are done through the building and installation of cost-effective meteor cameras, and our growing camera array now forms one of the densest in the Southern Hemisphere. Since the data are automatically uploaded daily to the Global Meteor Network, participants can choose their level of involvement from calculating fireball trajectories to simply seeing the results online. You do not need to be a RASNZ member to join the Section, and we welcome interested people.

Director: James Scott

Email: [email protected]

Website: https://fireballs.nz/

Earth passes through debris left by comets crossing Earth's orbit. This causes a large increase in the number of meteors seen during over several nights. These meteor showers produce meteors that all seem to come from a particular place in the sky (the radiant) and are known by the constellation they apear to come from. You can find a list of meteor showers on our Meteor Shower page.

If you think you may have found ameteorite you can report it to the Fireballs Aotearoa experts at [email protected]. Please include a description of where and how the object was found and pictures of it in your email.

Fireball camera mounted at Cromwell College, Central Otago.

These cameras are operated by members of Fireballs Aotearoa. Many are operated by schools and provide a great jumping off point for discussing astronomy and cosmology.

RASNZ Affiliated Societies and individuals operate a good number of cameras and are finding additional uses for the images generated by the cameras such as aurora hunting, bright variable star monitoring and even checking the state of the sky to see if a trip to the observatory is worth while.

A stacked image of the night sky above Waiakia on August 28th 2022. The bright trail is a Otago fireball that was visible down to 16 km elevation. Image courtesy of Bob Evans.

Camera operators can use these stacked images to get an overview of a night's activity, and possibly spot candidate fireballs that the automated system has missed.

Fireball over the Waitaki Valley. The final mass is estimated to be 100 gm.

Information from individual images such as this from different cameras can be combined to calculate the trajectory of the object and even make a good estimate of its mass.

The trajectory can be used to determine where the object originated and, with a good estimate of its mass, where it may have come to earth.

A Google Earth image showing the trajectories of two small cometary bodies (~100 gm) that exploded high in the atmosphere above the central South Island.

The end game is to use the information from the various cameras that detect a fireball event to determine where a meteor might have dropped a meteorite. If the analysts at Fireballs Aotearoa determine there is a good chance that a meteorite has been dropped in an accessible region a search will be organised to look for it. A successful search will produce New Zealand's tenth meteorite.