Brilliant fireball over Canada sparks meteorite hunt
It's possible that more than one meteorite emerged from the fireball, which started out about the size of a basketball.
Fri, Mar 21, 2014 at 02:20 AM
Canadian researchers are seeking the meteorite that caused this fireball over southwestern Ontario on March 18, 2014. (Photo: University of Western Ontario)
Scientists are rushing to the site of a possible meteorite impact in Canada's southwestern Ontario after a bright fireball lit up the skies over that region Tuesday night (March 18).
The basketball-sized fireball was spotted at 10:24 p.m. local time in seven all-sky cameras operated by Western University's Southern Ontario Meteor Network, according to meteor scientist Peter Brown of Canada's Western University in London, Ont. Two other camera systems in Ohio and Pennsylvania operated jointly with NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office also spotted the fireball, he added.
Western University scientists suspect the fireball exploded up about 47 miles (75 kilometers) above Port Dover, Ont., and moved west until breaking up around 20 miles (32 km) between Aylmer and St. Thomas, about two hours west of Toronto. [5 Amazing Fireball Videos]
"In this fall, meteorites may be found in a small hole produced by their dropping into soil," university officials advised. "Meteorites are not dangerous, but any recovered meteorites should be placed in a clean plastic bag or container and be handled as little as possible to preserve their scientific information."
Brown and Western University meteorite curator Phil McCausland are expected to hold a press briefing at St. Thomas Municipal Airport to discuss the upcoming meteorite hunt. They will be joined by meteor expert Bill Cooke, who leads NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., Western University officials said.
"Meteorites may best be recognized by their dark and scalloped exterior, and are usually denser than normal rock and will often attract a fridge magnet due to their metal content," officials at Western wrote in a statement March 20. The university is based in London, Ont., Canada.
One or more meteorites possibly emerged from the fireball, falling 3 miles (5 km) to the north or northwest of St. Thomas, the researchers said. Western officials said they are seeking anyone who "may have witnessed or recorded this event, seen or heard unusual events at the time, or who may have found possible fragments of the freshly fallen meteorite."
Potential meteorite hunters should ask for permission of land owners before searching on private land, university officials warned.
The university is posting updates about the meteorite hunt on Twitter @mediawesternu and with the hashtag #stthomasmeteor.
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