CCTV footage has revealed the bizarre flash of light that preceded a loud bang heard in Melbourne, Australia’s northeast overnight.
In the video, a Doreen resident is in his driveway by his car just before 9 p.m. when there appears to be a sudden bright flash of light followed by an explosive sound.
Residents from surrounding areas Balwyn and Doncaster quickly took to social media to find answers.
On Thursday morning, Doreen locals told Sunrise they believed the noise was caused by a meteorite.
Australian National University astronomer Brad Tucker told 3AW that the sound was likely due to the breaking apart of a basketball-size asteroid.
“A lot of people saw flashes associated with this boom, so it’s likely that it was a meteor,” he said.
“A bit of an asteroid (probably) broke off, travelled through space … and because it’s traveling so fast when it hits the earth’s atmosphere, that’s the sonic boom people hear, all this energy being released in the sky.”
Tucker said it was not unusual for residents in only a small part of the city to have seen the asteroid and heard the sonic boom.
“Sometimes they are localized, it depends on the size,” he said.
“The brightness and the explosion will all be relative to size, so that gives us a clue that it’s probably a smaller size.”
Tucker said in this situation the asteroid was likely only 4 to 16 inches wide, about the size of a basketball.
Fragments of the asteroid would have either burned up as they entered the atmosphere or made it down to Earth.
The astronomer said the smaller the asteroid, the harder it was to detect.
“Anything bigger than 100 meters we’re pretty good at finding, anything more than a kilometer we know, but this is where a lot of the work is happening with these really small ones,” he said.
“Sometimes we don’t know at all, as in this case, or we only know hours out.”
Tucker said while scientists did worry about “the bigger ones,” it was very unlikely that an asteroid similar in size to the one that wiped out the dinosaurs would visit Earth.
“Those happen every 50-100 million years or so,” he said.
“But even ones that are tens of meters in size can release the equivalent of a nuclear bomb’s worth of energy in the atmosphere.
“We do have to monitor and worry about those ones.”
Jason Busuttil, a resident from Langwarrin in Melbourne’s outer southeast, said he saw the meteor “heading towards the Dandenongs.”
“(It) looked like a train in the sky about 100 meters long,” he said.