[meteorite-list] Fireball Streaks Across Canada

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 10:32:53 2004
Message-ID: <200403231640.IAA00141_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Fireball streaks across Prairies

Astronomers ecstatic over space visitor
Barb Pacholik and Sherri Zickefoose
Calgary Herald
March 23, 2004

A Calgary amateur astronomer's nightly routine of taping the city skyline
paid off by capturing a glimpse of a spectacular fireball that blazed across
Prairie skies.

"So far, I'm the only one I know who's got it," said Don Hladiuk, a
geologist and member of the Royal Astronomy Society of Canada.

Hladiuk mans the University of Calgary's automatic sky search camera, and
the fish-eye lens caught the streak of light and two bright flashes at 7:33
p.m., Sunday night, according to the camera's timer.

"It's really exciting. In the end, you hope to discover new rocks."

The fireball that lit up the night sky over Alberta, Saskatchewan and
Manitoba has stoked excitement among astronomers musing about the rare
possibility of a significant meteorite discovery.

Determining the exact path of the fireball, which University of Calgary
geologist Alan Hildebrand estimates to have been the size of a kitchen sink
while sailing over the city, is proving to be a challenge.

"We wish it was 10 tonnes instead of 100 kilograms," said Hildebrand, who is
the co-ordinator of the Canadian Fireball Reporting Centre.

Although the sky was cloudy on Sunday night, the burst of light was visible
to Calgarian Rachel Crook as she headed north on Crowchild Trail.

"There was a great, huge bright-orange flash to the east," she said.

"It was amazing."

"It totally took me by surprise. My first thought was something exploded. I
was looking for smoke, like it was a helicopter."

On Monday, Martin Beech, a Regina astronomer who sits on a national
meteorite committee, was busy sifting through reported sightings.

"It's potentially very exciting," said Beech, who teaches at the University
of Regina's Campion College.

"Without a doubt, a very bright fireball was seen," he said, adding all
signs are pointing to a meteor -- burning fragments of asteroids from the
region between Mars and Jupiter.

Because it was so widely visible and some witnesses heard a sonic boom or
smelled sulphur, the possibility of a meteorite -- when pieces of a meteor
actually reach Earth -- are increased, he added.

"There's a very good chance meteorites did come to ground from what I've
heard so far."

If a meteorite hit Saskatchewan and could be located, it would be the first
"meteorite fall" -- a fireball sighting combined with finding material on
the ground -- that's been recorded in the province, said Beech, a member of
the Meteorites and Impacts Advisory Committee to the Canadian Space Agency.

The fireball was not a satellite, part of a rocket or other manmade space
debris, confirmed Capt. Dave Muralt of 17 Wing at CFB Moose Jaw, Sask. He
checked Monday with Norad in Colorado, which tracks orbiting material
returning to Earth.

Chris Rutkowski, an unidentified flying object expert in Winnipeg, said "a
good chunk of Canada saw this thing."

He said there were reports Sunday of sightings from Edmonton to Ottawa and
into North Dakota.

Because so many people saw the fireball, chances are it was very high up,
said Rutkowski, who was speaking on behalf of Ufology Research of Manitoba.

Despite the dramatic display, the show lasted only about four seconds. But
Ronalda and Ben Kleinsasser, who live on a farm near Kerrobert, Sask., won't
forget what they saw.

"I was watching TV when I saw this ball of fire dropping out of the sky with
a tail of flames," said Ben Kleinsasser. "I watched it coming down until
there it was, right in front of us.

"My hair went up on end and I had goose bumps. It was wild. And it rumbled
the floor pretty good because my daughter came running upstairs asking if
someone fell in the house."

Family members scoured the area for any sign of impact or damage.

"I figured for sure it hit one of our barns or bins. That's how close it

If anyone along the meteor's path finds an odd rock, there are tell-tale
characteristics to look for, such as a shiny jet-black surface and magnetic
properties, Beech said.


Here is some information about meteors:

- What are they: Bits of comet debris. Scientists think comets formed some
4.6 billion years ago when the sun condensed out of a cloud of hydrogen,
helium and some dust and the solar system was born.

- Meteor: When the meteoroid, or comet debris, enters the Earth's
atmosphere, the light phenomenon is called a meteor.

- Meteorite: A meteoroid that survives passage through the atmosphere and
hits the ground.

- Speedball:Just before they enter the Earth's atmosphere, meteoroids travel
at 71 km/second, or some 2,663 times as fast as a fast pitch in baseball, or
the same as going around the Earth in 3.8 minutes.

- Light show: The colour of a meteor is an indication of its composition and
the excitation temperature: sodium atoms give an orange-yellow light, iron
atoms a yellow light, magnesium a blue-green light, calcium atoms may add a
violet hue, while silicon atoms and molecules of atmospheric nitrogen give a
red light.

- How old: If parts of a meteorite are found, its age can be determined by
testing its level of radioactivity.

Source: www.space.com.



Expert confirms meteor in Sunday's sky
The Winnipeg Sun
March 23, 2004

No, it wasn't an exploding airplane or an elaborate fireworks
display. The bright fireball that lit up the night sky over Southern
Manitoba on Sunday was a meteor, experts confirm.

"Apparently, it was quite spectacular," said Scott Young, an
astronomer with the Manitoba Museum. "It started off as a single
body from outer space, hit our atmosphere and disintegrated."

Meteors, which are pieces of rock from outer space which burn up
in a puff of light, happen all the time but this one stood out
because of its intensity and early-evening timing which ensured a
widespread audience across Eastern Alberta, the prairies and into

"It looked like something I have never ever seen before," said
Pinawa resident Clara Cooper, who was watching TV with her
husband when she spotted the meteor through a living room
window about 7:30 p.m. "The colours were so fantastic."


Witnesses from Oak Bank and Winnipeg were quick to report the
unusual sighting to their local RCMP detachment or Transport
Canada and fill up Young's voice mail at the planetarium.

They reported seeing what looked like a comet with a blue light
near the front and a long, blueish-green tail behind.

"It was seen by literally hundreds of people," said researcher
Chris Rutkowski.

Young is asking anyone who videotaped the meteor to contact the
planetarium so they can figure out where any pieces might have

He's bracing for a surge of potential meteorite findings from
Manitoba farmers but chances are they're not the real deal.

To date, there have only been seven meteorites ever found in

"In 30 years, we've never had a single meteorite come through the
door," said Young, adding the brighter-than-usual meteor likely
stemmed from an asteroid instead of a comet
Received on Tue 23 Mar 2004 11:39:58 AM PST

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