Friday, 19 March 2021

Meteor sightings in the Casey Cardinia area

This region is world famous for the Cranbourne Meteorites which were unearthed between 1853 and 2008. I have written about them here. I have found some newspaper reports of local observations of meteors, which are reproduced below. They are called meteors when they are in space and if they make it to earth they are called meteorites. I will confess I only found this out a few years ago when I did a talk at a school in Cranbourne to Grade 2s about the history of the area and one of the boys in the class mentioned this fact.

What is the chance of observing a meteor? The American Meteor Society says that several thousand meteors of fireball magnitude occur in the Earth’s atmosphere each day. The vast majority of these, however, occur over the oceans and uninhabited regions, and a good many are masked by daylight. Those that occur at night also stand little chance of being detected due to the relatively low numbers of persons out to notice them...A fireball is another term for a very bright meteor, generally brighter than magnitude -4, which is about the same magnitude of the planet Venus in the morning or evening sky. (

So sightings of meteors are relatively unusual and it is even rarer for a meteor to fall to earth. The American Meteor Society says that our best estimates of the total incoming meteoroid flux indicate that about 10 to 50 meteorite dropping events occur over the earth each day. It should be remembered, however, that 2/3 of these events will occur over ocean, while another 1/4 or so will occur over very uninhabited land areas, leaving only about 2 to 12 events each day with the potential for discovery by people. Half of these again occur on the night side of the earth, with even less chance of being noticed. Due to the combination of all of these factors, only a handful of witnessed meteorite falls occur each year. As an order of magnitude estimation, each square kilometer of the earth’s surface should collect 1 meteorite fall about once every 50,000 years, on the average. If this area is increased to 1 square mile, this time period becomes about 20,000 years between falls. (

We will have to wait a long time before another meteorite lands in this area, but if you want to see one now, the Cranbourne Meteorite No. 13, identified in 2008, is on display at the Casey RACE Leisure Centre, next to the Cranbourne Library.

Cranbourne No. 13 meteorite, identified in 2008 at Clyde. It weighs 83 kg. 
Photographer: Angela Muscat. Museums Victoria

Here are some reports of meteor sightings in the Casey Cardinia area and a little further afield.
1867 - Cranbourne
On Tuesday evening last a very brilliant meteor was seen at Cranbourne, at about twenty minutes past eight. It shot through the heavens with great rapidity, for an instant casting a glow on the ground (Mount Alexander Mail March 2, 1867, see here)

1881 January - south west of Warragul
One of the most brilliant meteors it has ever been our lot to witness made its appearance in the south western sky at about 10 o'clock on Monday night. The meteor, which first appeared like a large, very bright shooting star, started from high up in the heavens, and fell in the ordinary manner of such bodies for a considerable distance, apparently coming straight towards the earth. After falling some distance, it suddenly burst, when it closely resembled (but was far brighter and more beautiful than) a blue
light from a rocket. The light emitted was of a light blue color and so intense that the whole southern sky was lighted up, and the meteor continued on its way earthward till lost to view behind the trees. It did not seem to be very far off, apparently not more than a few miles. (Warragul Guardian January 13, 1881, see here)

1881 August - east of Dandenong
A very brilliant meteor was observed in the eastern direction at Dandenong on Saturday night last. It resembled a hugh ball of pale blue fire being rolled through the heavens, and as it continued its career it threw a light similar to a heavy flash of lightning, lighting up the whole township. The strange occurrence left a pale blueish line behind, and it was several seconds before the effects of this meteor had disappeared altogether. (South Bourke & Mornington Journal, August 24, 1881, see here.)

1910 - Woolamai
For a few seconds on Thursday the midnight sky was lit up by a most brilliant meteor, which, after travelling swiftly in a north-easterly direction, suddenly ended in a shower of flashing fragments. (The Age, September 12, 1910, see here. Woolamai, a stop on the old railway line which ran from Nyora to Wonthaggi, is inland from Bass)

1913 - south of Dandenong
A magnificent meteor was seen in the South the other evening. It lighted up the sky during its rapid flight. The ball appeared of bluish tint, while the edge had a yellow tinge. (South Bourke & Mornington Journal, June 12, 1913, see here)

1919 - Beaconsfield
A Startling Spectacle - Meteor explodes in Daylight. 
Beaconsfield -  About 11 a.m. on Thursday a dazzling ribbon of fire was observed to suddenly appear in the western sky, and as it vanished in a flash its position was plainly marked with a column of white smoke or vapor. One spectator, in vividly describing the incident, said that happening to be looking over the Berwick hills towards Melbourne it seemed as if the sky had suddenly split in half. The only explanation offered was that an unusually large meteorite had fallen in some part of Victoria. (The Age December 27, 1919, see here The same article reports sightings of this meteor throughout the State, including in the suburbs of Melbourne as well as Hamilton and Portland.)

1948 - Dandenong
Dandenong Man Reports Falling Meteor.
Among those fortunate enough to see the falling meteor which flashed a flaming trail across the sky early last Wednesday evening, was Mr. V. Matthews, of Dandenong. Residents, as far apart as Warragul and Gardenvale also reported the meteor. Mr. V. Matthews told a “Journal” representative that he was coming along Frankston Rd. about 6 o’clock in the early evening when he saw a huge object-like a house on fire sweep across the sky. It had a tremendous tail - to him it appeared to be half-a mile long - and was dropping balls of fire in its wake. So much did it appear under control that at first he feared it was a ’plane ablaze. It disappeared in the general direction of the city - an awe-inspiring sight (Dandenong Journal, June 23, 1948, see here)

No comments: