PORT Macquarie found itself in the path of a meteorite on Monday morning as the speeding fireball shot through the earth's atmosphere.

The sky lit up, the night rumbled and the earth shook.

Where it was heading and where it landed, nobody knows.

But to witness the strange phenomenon residents had to be within a 50km radius of the meteorite's path; and there was no shortage of witnesses in Port Macquarie.

Mark Shelton had to pinch himself when he woke up.

The Gilmore St resident said the reserve at the back of his place glowed with an intensely bright light for about five seconds.

"It was like nothing I've seen before in my life," he told the Port News.

"It was so bright I didn't know what it was. I got up walked onto the balcony and 35 seconds later heard distant explosions followed by earth tremors that made the windows rattle.

"I was scared of the light because I've never seen anything like it. It was like looking at the sun, but worse."

The noise people heard was the sonic boom from the fireball hitting the earth's atmosphere.

If parts of the fireball break through the atmosphere, the rock that survives is a meteorite that will land on earth.

Astronomers can't tell if this happened on Monday because there have been no reports of people finding the rock.

According to Sydney Observatory astronomer Dr Nick Lomb, it's not uncommon for meteorites to reach earth.

In June a meteorite shot through the roof of a New Zealand home and in 1999 a Dunbogan home near Port Macquarie was hit. Fifty years ago in Alabama, USA, a woman was hit by a meteorite that came through her bedroom roof while she was sleeping.

And, if you're lucky, or unlucky, enough to get in the way of the meteorite, at least the rock will pay for the repairs because the outer atmospheric collectibles are valuable.

On the flip-side, a meteorite looks like any other rock and is impossible to distinguish without testing or unless it was seen falling out of the sky.


First there was a growing 'shewwwwwwwwing' sound from the north-west.

Almost simultaneously, the fish began boiling on the surface of the water.

Then, as if on cue, the lights on the bridge went out just as a fuzzy object the colour of a smoke-filtered sun with a long tail flashed overhead, rocketing out to sea.

Port Macquarie man Lloyd Eyles witnessed what he described as 'the spectacle of a lifetime' while fishing from Lake Cathie Bridge at 4am on Monday.

The well-known local fishing identity had an armchair view of the meteor which made a noisy pass over the Mid-North Coast.

For most people - the light sleepers anyway - it was little more than a window-rattling disruption to their sleep.

For Mr Eyles it was a celestial close encounter of the impressive kind.

"It all happened very quickly,' he said.

"I only just heard the shewwwing sound coming from the direction of Lake Innes when the fish went absolutely beserk, boiling up on the surface of the water.

"A split second later the lights on the bridge went out as this orange ball passed overhead.

"It almost seemed close enough to touch. It was probably much higher, but it appeared to pass about 20 metres above the trees just south of the bridge.

"As it moved away there was this loud rumble - like jets breaking the sound barrier or a convoy of trucks carrying boulders."

"It gave me the impression it was losing height as it headed out to sea."

The brief blackout of the street lights pitched the bridge into complete darkness, allowing Mr Eyles a clear view of the spectacle.

There was no shortage of local people woken by the rumble of the meteor. Some like Gilmore Street resident Mark Shelton were quick enough to observe the bright light that accompanied it.

It's not uncommon for meteorites to reach Earth. In 1999 a Dunbogan home was hit.

While they are valuable, testing is needed to distinguish them from earthly variety.

If Mr Eyles' close encounter left him open-mouthed, it did the same for the fish.

"It must have shaken them up," he said. "I caught another four whiting, a bream and a flathead afterwards."