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Exploding meteor wows NZ

Sonic boom, purple and red flames, the works

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New Zealand was earlier today treated to a suspected meteor crash-landing which "rattled windows across the Pacific nation's South Island", Reuters reports.

The meteor broke the sound barrier during its rapid descent, leaving a "long white trail" as it disintegrated in "purple and red flames", as one eyewitness recalled.

The sonic boom provoked a flurry of calls to emergency services in the Canterbury region on the east coast. Christchurch resident Robin Clements told Reuters: "It was short and sharp and like an explosion. It could have been an earthquake, but we waited for the rumble and nothing happened."

That the object was probably a meteor was confirmed by the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, which said "none of its instruments had registered any shocks". The NZ Air Force rather sadly added that "none of its planes was fast enough to break the sound barrier".

No debris has been recovered, so Jenny McCormick of the Auckland-based Stardome Observatory postulated that the aerial display might have been caused by "a piece of space junk like old satellites". ®

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