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‘Who else just saw that?’ – ‘Small meteor’ lights up the Cape night sky

Social media users reacted with awe at a meteor that passed over the Western Cape on Wednesday night in loud, fiery fashion.

People from Hermanus to Cape Town were amazed as a flash across the sky at about 20:00 culminated in a loud explosion. "The object was almost certainly a small meteor, most likely around a metre across when it entered the atmosphere. It is unlikely any fragments reached the ground," Dr Daniel Cunnama, science engagement astronomer at the South African Astronomical Observatory, told News24. "From just after 20:15 NSRI received multiple reports of a suspected flare sighting from multiple locations around the greater Cape Peninsula," the NSRI said in a statement. "Reports were received around the greater Cape Peninsula and beyond with reports from Hermanus, Kleinmond, Betty's Bay, Gordons Bay, False Bay, Simon's Town, Cape Point, Scarborough, Kommetjie to Sea Point, Table Bay and Bloubergstrand." The organisation identified the object as a shooting star. Cunnama said it was unlikely that the object had hit land. "Such small objects pose very little danger and will disintegrate in the upper atmosphere. Larger objects over 10m to 20m are more likely to impact the ground, but the likelihood of them hitting land, or a human settlement, is still very small," said Cunnama. Residents who witnessed the incident all along the Southern Cape coast said there was a loud bang that "shook the windows" as the meteor ended its combustion run. In 2013, a large object exploded in the sky over the Russian town of Chelyabinsk, injuring more than 400 people on the ground, News24 reported. However, experts concluded that the Chelyabinsk object was around 20m in size, much bigger than the small meteor that raced across the Cape skies. The next meteor shower is the Lyrids shower due on April 22, followed by the Eta Aquarids shower on May 5, though they are not easily visible from South Africa. "There are various meteor showers during the year, with much smaller objects entering the atmosphere, the best time is normally in the early hours of the morning, 02:00 to 06:00, and you need to look north," Cunnama said. DM

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