Was it a plane! Was it a car? Was it Superman? The first two are definitely out. The Man of Steel is probably out too, given that his colour scheme is blue, red and yellow.
All of which leaves sky-watchers in Western Australia perplexed as to what they saw streak across the night sky earlier in the week.
Many people videoed or photographed the bright green object zooming across the heavens in WA’s remote Pilbara region at around 1am in the morning. The spectacle was even seen by some surprised South Australians and Territorians.
Multi-coloured object has ‘befuddled astronomers
Many observers caught the phenomenon on video, reported the website Live Science. “The fireball streaks steadily across the sky. At first, it appears orange or yellow, with a short tail streaming behind it. After a few seconds, the bulk of the fireball lights up blue.”
It added that the sighting had “surprised Western Australia’s night owls and befuddled the astronomy community”.
Spectacular object appears to have a lot of iron in it
“It was really a spectacular observation. People have captured something very special here,” said Glen Nagle from the CSIRO-NASA tracking station in Canberra in an interview with ABC News.
He said the distinctive greenish-blue colour seen by observers indicated the object had a lot of iron in it.
“Every single day, our Earth’s atmosphere is hit by about 100 tonnes of natural space debris,” Nagle told the ABC. “Most of it is falling over unpopulated areas, or over oceans, and during the day when you are not going to actually see them.”
An asteroid or a meteoroid is the most likely
Ellie Sansom, Project Manager for Curtin University’s Desert Fireball Network, said it was most likely an asteroid or a meteoroid because it was bright and did not flicker much. A meteoroid is a small rocky or metallic body significantly smaller than asteroids
“These are basically rocks that are older than the Earth and pre-date having planets in the solar system,” Sansom said. “So we can use those to figure out how our solar system formed, possibly how Earth formed, and maybe even where life came from on Earth.”
Will the astronomy community be mounting a search party to find the mysterious object? Sansom says not, as the Pilbara landscape comprises very similar material to meteorites.
But if you happen to go walkabout in the Pilbara and come across some lost and forlorn Little Green Men, we’ll know what it really was, won’t we?