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Meteor at Limpopo-Lipadi

Posted by denise huxham
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On Saturday the 21st November 2009 I was at Limpopo-Lipadi to celebrate a family birthday. It was chilly and we had some of the sails down on the patio. All of a sudden we saw the white bright light outside. A huge fireball streaked across the sky. Approximately 5 minutes later there was a booming explosion that shook the earth.

It was a meteor.

Subsequent information from the Planetarium, and experts, was that it probably was a soccer-ball sized rock, or lump of comet, crashing into the earth and burning up in our atmosphere. It entered South African airspace in Southern Kwa-Zula Natal or the Eastern Cape at approximately 150,000 to 200,000km/h at a height of about 80km. It took 30 seconds to travel from there to Alldays. It was slowing all the time. Friction caused temperatures of 8000 degrees C.

At Limpopo-Lipadi it had slowed so much that it broke through the sound barrier (less than 1000km/h). This caused the sonic boom which was the explosion we felt. The meteor did not explode and was probably an iron meteorite the size of a computer box or TV set. It may have been travelling at 100-500km/h when it struck earth at a 30-45 degree angle. It may have caused a crater where it landed. The size and shape according to experts would depend on terrain, maybe 1m deep, 3-4m across. In soft sand it could be 3-4m deep and larger.

Reports are still being collated, and video footage taken by members of the public is being studied by astronomers and geophysicists. Technical information came from the Planetarium in Johannesburg, and astronomer Brian Fraser who is trying to calculate the orbit with the help of an American astronomer. If anyone comes across any new information please contact Brian at

As far as I know none of the searches for an impact site has been successful, but Botswana is sparsely populated consisting 30% of desert and 30% of swamps.

Tags: meteor