Port Elizabeth – The mysterious bright lights and sound of an explosion over the skies of the Eastern Cape at the weekend might have been a meteorite that disintegrated when it entered the atmosphere, according to an expert.
“It sounds like a bolide, which is a meteor that is large enough to break up into smaller meteors when it enters the atmosphere,” said Jerome Jooste, chairperson of the Johannesburg Centre of the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa.
He said a bolide, if it penetrated deep enough into the atmosphere, would explode and sound like a loud bang. This could lead to a shower of small particles which “may or may not” reach the ground.
“What probably happened was that the bolide broke up completely. If a meteorite did get to the veld in the Eastern Cape, it could possibly be no bigger than a fingernail.”
Given up on search
The Kouga municipality told News24 on Monday that an emergency services team had no luck in locating what was thought to be a meteorite that struck near the Patensie area on Sunday night.
“We have given up on the search for now. We were quite a large team and we couldn’t find anything,” municipal spokesperson Mfundo Sobele told News24.
“We asked local residents who told us about seeing something in the sky, but its exact location could not be determined.”
Several witnesses described seeing flashes across the sky. They also heard a loud explosion.
A News24 user Erika Lambrechs said she was travelling from Uitenhage to Port Elizabeth. “At about 20:45 the whole sky lit up like a lightning flash, but blue in colour and brighter.”
“I then saw a trail of blue flashes come from the eastern side to the west and burn out. It was the most spectacular thing I have seen, far better than any fireworks… A once-in-a-lifetime event for me.”
‘It was noticeably close’
Siphokazi Luzipho said she was facing the beach from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth when she saw a huge flashing light.
“Initially I thought it was lightning but it couldn’t have been. The weather was settled, sky clear, no stars though and it was a tad cold. [I] turned around and there it was – a huge meteor that seemed much closer to the earth than the first which I saw last year and those normally in videos and movies.
“[I] screamed… from excitement! It was noticeably close.”
Francois Greyling, a Democratic Alliance councillor in the Despatch area, who lives fairly close to Patensie, heard an explosion.
“I studied in Potchefstroom where the army did bombing practice which had a distinct thumping sound. I was watching a movie with the kids and the wife, when I heard what sounded like a bomb going off,” he told News24 on Monday.
“It immediately reminded me of that thumping sound.”
Greyling said he “thought nothing of it” until he saw people talking on social media about a possible meteorite strike in the area.