On Saturday, 21 November, shortly after 23:00 in the evening, 100’s of witnesses in South Africa reported seeing a bright flash in the sky. This remarkable phenomenon only lasted for a few seconds, but countless eye-witness reports as well as video footage of the incident, confirms that the flying object transformed into a fiery red-purple fireball before disappearing. I was indoors at that exact moment, and did not see anything -- (can kick myself for this!)
The majority of the eye-witness accounts come mainly from the northern Gauteng, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo provinces, but there are also a few reports from the KwaZulu/Natal province. Click here to view some of these reports, as well as video footage.
Claire Flanagan, an astronomer at the Johannesburg Planetarium, as well as Magda Streicher, an astronomer from Limpopo, have identified the blazing object as a meteor. Sharad Master, a senior researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand's Impact Cratering Research Group (ICRG) said the meteor probably exploded in the atmosphere, but the latest report by Magda Streicher states, "We're making progress in finding out more or less where the meteorite hit. Some 60km west of Alldays, and 20km from Maasstroom and 15km from the Botswana border, on the farm Exiter, the wall of the farmer's house was cracked, the door shot open, and the Earth trembled." Source
The size of this meteor has been estimated to be the size of a rugby ball, and is thus not large enough to create an impact crater of significant size, --- so I should imagine that finding the exact location of the impact-crater in the vast African bush is going to be a rather daunting task. Incidentally, --- it is only when a meteor reaches the ground and survives impact, that it is called a meteorite.
Meteors are caused by streams of cosmic debris called meteoroids entering Earth's atmosphere at extremely high speeds on parallel trajectories. Meteor showers are almost always named after the constellation from which the meteors appear to originate. Fragments that do survive impact with Earth's surface are called meteorites. When it enters the atmosphere, impact pressure causes the body to heat up and emit light, thus forming a fireball. Source
In astronomical circles it is generally accepted that the phenomenon observed here in Southern Africa on the eve of 21 November 2009, was a meteor shower known as, “Alpha Monocerotids”. The Astronomical Society of Southern Africa (ASSA) also lists 21 November 2009 as the expected date for the Alpha Monocerotids meteor shower.
An accurate table of meteor showers is also published on the Wikipedia website. This comprehensive table lists 72 different meteor streams and their peak activity times. The info is based on data from the International Meteor Organization (IMO). Alpha Monocerotids has its peak date listed as 21 November 2009, --- the exact date it was observed here in South Africa.
The video below shows footage of the meteor shower taken from the security camera of the Mustek building in Midrand, Gauteng.