'Fireball' Spotted Over Tasmania Likely an Optical Illusion, Physicists Say

Astrophysicists say a spectacular slow-moving “fireball” spotted over the skies of Hobart, Tasmania, on Tuesday, February 28, was probably simply an aeroplane lit by the rising sun.

Hobart locals recorded and photographed an object, which they described as a “fireball”, heading east of Hobart seen around 6:30 am on Tuesday.

Storyful contacted a pair of physicists at the University of Tasmania who said the object was not consistent with a meteor or a satellite. They said the fragmented red particles and the appearance of a downwards trajectory meant it could be easily mistaken for one.

“It’s moving too slow to be a meteor, which moves at tens of kilometres a second,” one physicist said after watching the video, adding that a meteor would’ve cleared the sky in seconds.

“It’s definitely high altitude and the twin tails correspond with a contrail from planes. Given the time of the day, it looks the water vapour was being illuminated from below by the sun.”

They added that the illusion of the plane travelling downwards was a result of the aircraft moving over the horizon and out of sight. By checking Flight Radar data, Storyful was able to locate an Emirates plane bound from Dubai to Auckland, New Zealand. The time of the flight was consistent with the witness reports of the object spotted over the Hobart area. Credit: Lee-Anne Peters via Storyful