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All indications suggest that a meteor entered the Earth’s atmosphere above the Western Cape last night [16 January 2019] around 20h15.

  • Thursday, 17 January 2019
  • Jeanette du Toit | LInda Chivell

meteorite approaching earth


It’s all happening in Hermanus.

Last week there were flames reaching the skies as wildfires burned out of control, and tonight the sky was alight with a blaze as an apparent meteor exploded above the seaside town in the Western Cape of South Africa.

meteorite 1 st photos 2

Dave twitter

Social Media once again exploded in a frenzy with posts like this from Dave on Twitter as sightings were reported in Gansbaai- Hermanus- Somerset West, Cape Town and even as far away as Clanwilliam.

The  press release by the South African Space Agency in Hermanus shed some light on this phenomenon witnessed by so many people last night


Sansa explain www

Photos taken of the event show that the meteor broke up into at least two pieces high up in the atmosphere. In all probability, it burnt up in the atmosphere as no impact has been confirmed at this stage.

“A shock wave or sonic boom was created in front of the meteor while travelling through the atmosphere of the Earth."

"This phenomenon is observed as a loud bang, and sometimes when the meteor breaks up into smaller pieces, it adds to the loud thunder-like noise,” says Kotze.

Meteors in general, depending on their size, start to heat up due to atmospheric resistance and radiate light at an altitude between 50 and 80 km above the surface of the Earth. “We, therefore, estimate the size of this meteor between 1 and 2 m in diameter which makes it extremely difficult to detect by telescope warning systems,” says Kotze.



Difference between a meteor and a meteorite:
Meteor - Flash of light that we see in the night sky when a small chunk of interplanetary debris burns up as it passes through our atmosphere.
Meteorite - Any part of a meteoroid that survives the fall through the atmosphere and lands on Earth.

The South African Astronomical Observatory did not detect the meteor with its telescopes but there was a report from the Pan-STARRS team (the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System located at Haleakala Observatory) in Hawaii, in the US. They have a preliminary report of a close-approaching object but that is not confirmed yet.

When a meteoroid, comet, or asteroid enters Earth’s atmosphere at a speed typically in excess of 20 km/s, aerodynamic heating of that object produces a streak of light, both from the glowing object and the trail of glowing particles that it leaves in its wake.

This phenomenon is called a meteor if the object burns up in the atmosphere. If that object withstands its passage through the atmosphere as a meteor and impacts the ground, it is then called a meteorite. A series of many meteors appearing seconds or minutes apart and appearing to originate from the same fixed point in the sky is called a meteor shower.

 Plotting the most reliable sighting from last night Timothy Cooper, ASSA Comet Meteor & Asteroid Specialist, traced the path the meteorite followed. He posted the map on the very popular Facebook Group;  RSG, Sterre en Planete

Timothy Cooper update

 An event like this obviously holds invaluable clues to scientists.

Willie Koorts from the South African Astronomical Observatory,  requests the public via the same Facebook Group, to please send him their information ( see below)

Willie Koorts versoek om Data


 CCTV video from a farm near Malmesbury of the meteor sighted over the Western Cape at 20h15 on 16 Jan 2019.

CCTV video meteor

Click on the image to see the video

The South African National Space Agency will continue to provide updates as and when more information is received.

SANSA Hermanus, Western Cape:
Tel: 028 312 1196
Fax: 028 312 2039
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Overstrand Municipality

SANSA - South African National Space Agency

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