Meteorite Lights Up Australian Night Sky

People throughout Western Australia were left in awe last night when a spectacular meteorite fireball shot through the sky.

Shaken witnesses told of blinding light, trembling houses, brilliant colours and fears of the meteorite landing.

The spectacular display was seen from Perth to Kalgoorlie and south to Albany, as well as in the north.

The meteorite caused bright flashes and a sonic boom, and was thought to be the most spectacular show of its kind in WA in the past decade.

People travelling in aircraft saw the amazing show from the skies.

Astronomers believe the meteorite passed through the Earth's atmosphere about 300km (186 miles) southeast of Perth, about 8.47pm local time.

Perth Observatory astronomical officer Greg Lowe said the bright meteorite was known as a fireball.

"It caused a sonic boom, because it was travelling at a much higher speed than the speed of sound through the atmosphere," he said.

"People reported big flashes and prolonged rolling thunder.

"We don't think it landed, it probably burned itself away to nothing before reaching the ground.

"It probably would have burned out 20km-100km (12 to 62 miles) above the ground."

Excitement and bewilderment around the state last night was reminiscent of 1979, when the American space station Skylab plummeted to Earth near Esperance.

Mosman Park woman Diana Hammond, formerly of the U.S., was with six friends on a boat off Rottnest Island. They watched spellbound.

"I've seen a UFO over the desert in Utah in 1977 and this was much bigger and much brighter and much quicker," she said.

Geoff West, of Wagin, was harvesting 20km north of Kojonup when he saw the sky light up.

"I've never seen anything like it, it was hair-raising," he said.

"It was like a big bolt of blue lightning that just went on and on and on. It was quite scary. You could just see the flash go for miles."

Bunbury resident Richard Lyon was walking across Hans Oval when he witnessed a "rainbow of colours" in the sky.

"This thing just lit up the sky, I was just gobsmacked," he said.

Paul Phillips was enjoying a coffee at the Rottnest Tea Rooms when he saw what he described as a huge ball of flame with a big tail.

"It was spectacular but frightening at the same time," he said.

"It was so intense I was just hoping it wouldn't hit anybody when it hit."

Kulin resident Christine Tyson said the show lasted 15 seconds.

"I was waiting for the earth to start shaking, it just lit up the sky like daylight," she said.

"Maybe 30 seconds after the flash, there was this big roar like thunder."