A Calgary volunteer with the Canadian Fireball Reporting Centre captured about six seconds of video of a fireball that was witnessed by several people in the Lethbridge area at 5:45 a.m. Monday January 5th 2009.
Alan Hildebrand, co-ordinator of the Canadian Fireball Reporting Centre, and Canada Research Chair in Planetary Science at the University of Calgary, said reports continued to come in from Calgary residents Tuesday, one of whom captured the video. Hildebrand was part of the team that found chunks of a meteorite which landed near Lloydminster Nov. 20.
“The image starts in the east-southeast and goes towards the south,” Hildebrand said.
“I would guess it was 200 to 300 kilometres from here judging from its elevation in the sky. It was a shallow trajectory. He recorded six seconds of it before it went behind a cloud, so it was at least that long, and being shallow it could easily have been 10 or 20 seconds. Some of the witnesses in town here said they saw the whole thing, and they said it was not much longer than 10 seconds.
“Some of them reported seeing it break into fragments at the end, which I can also believe, and that’s also typical of expecting that it was a meteorite dropper.”
The precise time the video begins was 5:45.22-28. The images are black and white so Hildebrand couldn’t tell if it appeared to be blue, or blue-green as two witnesses described it to The Herald.
“It’s hard to say how bright it was, it was certainly a significant fireball. I can imagine the rock involved is approximately 10 kilograms, a rock maybe the size of your head. I don’t know enough to say much more, but many of the witnesses waxed quite rhapsodic about it, and that means it had to be significantly bright. For the witnesses who saw it down in your area, since they were closer to it, I can imagine it was a pretty bright fireball.”
From the information he has, Hildebrand is unable to hazard a guess as to where the fireball might have landed.
“I can say it was east-southeast of Calgary, but that’s about it at this point. There’s a good chance some pieces fell, but with all the cloud down there . . . to really narrow this down using eye witnesses you need a clear sky so the people right at the end can tell you what they saw. The one Nov. 20, that’s how I tracked down the end point. With clouds, you can’t do that.
“Naturally, if some farmer finds a hole in his shed and a rock on the floor, you’ve got a meteorite, but it’s a big country, and this wasn’t a big enough event to produce thousands of meteorites. If there hadn’t been clouds, you could go to Lethbridge and get security camera videos. One thing that’s now possible, you’ve got an exact time, so anyone who was running a security camera in Lethbridge can check at that exact time and see if they have anything. Security cameras are usually pointing down at parking lots, but once in awhile, we can see fireballs reflected in the windshields of cars.”
Terry Hood, operations manager for Volker Stevin, said four of his snowplow operators saw the fireball.
“The one thing one of them said that was quite interesting was that he saw lights in two different locations. He said there was a fairly bright light in one location and brighter in one area than another in a somewhat different location. I don’t know if that means there was more than one object or if it was some kind of optical illusion from the clouds.”
Two of the operators were working out of Volker Stevin’s Taber shop, and two from the Warner shop.
Ted Haynes told The Herald Monday he saw a spectacular streak of light while driving toward Vauxhall between 5:30 and 6 a.m. The fireball snuck up behind Greg and Susan Peterson, a Raymond couple who were driving from Wrentham toward the highway at Stirling. The couple were startled because at first they thought it was a truck or snowplow that came up suddenly behind them, but after about five seconds of extremely bright blue-green light, it simply vanished.
Hildebrand ruled out the fireball being part of the Quadrantid meteor shower, which hits Western Canada for the first few days of January each year, because of the speed and trajectory.
Fireball sightings can be reported to the Canadian Fireball Reporting Centre, an arm of the Canadian Space Agency, by going to www.miac.uqac.ca/MIAC/fireball.php.
Originally published by the Lethbridge Herald by Sherri Gallant Monday Fireball Caught On Video