Residents in Tasmania’s south captured the fast flash of light on camera. (Supplied: Leoni Williams)
They were waiting for the Aurora Australis, but novice photographers were left guessing after seeing a bright green flash light up the Tasmanian sky.
- Residents in Tasmania’s south saw a bright green flash in the starry sky
- Social media users suggested it was a meteor, glowing green because of the metals inside the rock
- An expert says it could also be space debris, but added it was a “spectacular” sight
Novice photographer Leoni Williams captured a shot of the green streak about 9:30pm on Thursday by “accident”.
Overlooking Pipe Clay Lagoon, toward Clifton Beach in southern Tasmania, Ms Williams had her camera facing south in anticipation of an Aurora.
“I was very lucky to capture this bright green object before it disappeared over the horizon,” Ms Williams said.
“I’m still not sure what it was. I didn’t actually see it with the naked eye as I wasn’t watching. I had just set the camera on 30 seconds and pushed the shutter and turned back to my phone.
“I would imagine it was pretty quick. I nearly missed it because it was at the end of the exposure.”
Photo sparked social media debate
Ms Williams took to social media to try and find out what she’d captured on camera.
Opinions varied, with some thinking it was a shooting star, a fallen satellite or even a UFO.
Spotted from the Huon Valley to Dodges Ferry, other photos began popping up on social media.
Eventually, it was shared on social media page Australian Meteor Reports.
“It’s definitely a meteor,” page administrator David Finlay said.
“That flash that’s been captured is a very, very bright meteor — it’s what we’d call a ‘fireball’. It probably lit up the countryside.”
Mr Finlay — a former industrial chemist who has been studying astronomy from an very early age — said the flash was created by a “small rock from space, blazing through the atmosphere, creating friction with the atmosphere”.
“It glows and ionises gas — that’s what you see as this fireball blazing through the sky.
“If it actually survives atmospheric entry and lands as a rock on land, that’s what we call a meteorite — only if it makes it to the ground.”
Why is it green?
As for the bright green glow, Mr Finlay said it had to do with the elemental components of the meteor.
“The green is produced by a combination of the nickel and iron in the meteor,” he said.
“It’s probably just a normal rocky meteor but it would contain flecks of metal in the rock, producing that colour. It’s very cool.
“It’s what we colloquially call a ‘fish squisher’ because it’s over the ocean,” he said.
Professor Simon Ellingsen, the head of physics at the University Tasmania, said it was possible the object was manmade space debris rather than a meteor.
“[The colour] is almost certainly because of the specific elements and minerals in the object,” he said.
“It probably wouldn’t have looked that green to the naked eye [because] digital cameras are so good at picking up the light.”
He said while it wasn’t unusual to spot a meteor or space debris over Tasmania, this object would have been a special sight to see.
“The sort of rule of thumb is if you go outside to a clear, dark sight, you’ll see a shooting star, so to speak, about every 10 minutes or so,” he said.
“This one that’s been caught is bigger than normal and more spectacular than you normally get.
“This photographer was obviously in the right place at the right time.”