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Massive fireball lights up the night sky
Published Friday, November 21, 2008 11:48AM MST
People across Western Canada are still talking about a massive fireball that cut through the night sky on Thursday.
The object was spotted at around 17:30 MST and was spotted by people living in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and even North Dakota.
The object is believed to have been a meteor, but according to Alan Dyer with the Telus World of Science in Calgary, confirmation of what it was and where it landed may not be known for a few more days.
The spectacular light display in the night sky demanded the attention of many who were either at home, driving or just outside.
"All of a sudden the sky just lit up and I saw this huge ball of fire coming down from the sky," said Albertan Sandy Wallin.
It seemed, depending on where people caught the light show, there were varying descriptions. Most witnesses described the event at first as a reddish or orange light that blazed across the sky and then exploded into a fireball.
Rob Westland witnessed the object while driving his son home from volleyball practice in Patricia, Alberta, He described the fireball as white, blue and green and the entire event lasted only seconds.
People living in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan believed the light streaked near the provinces' borders and made contact with earth there.
"I saw this brilliant light coming down from the sky to the south and... it was so bright that it almost blinded me to look at it," said Donna Wesley, who was driving at the time.
Davidson Family was driving from Red Deer to Edmonton when he saw the luminous object that he said had a tail.
"I hear like this thing, it's like a jet or something, and I look and it's like this big white flash."
"As it goes through the atmosphere at ultrasonic speeds, huge speeds, it causes the air around it to glow and light up," Alan Dyer said. He believes the object is likely a meteor or "meteorite" if it hit the earth. "By all reports, it was very quick, very fast, and so that suggests it's from the asteroid belt, it's a piece of natural space debris."
Dyer says there are a number of cameras across the province for university researchers and it will take time for them to go through the photos to figure out what it was.
If the meteor was captured by more than one of the cameras, it may be possible over the next couple of days to triangulate exactly where it touched down -- if it did.
"There's a very good chance it was what we call a bull's eye, which is a meteorite crossing the sky at extremely quick velocity -- very, very fast -- and as it hits the atmosphere at about 400,000 feet, travelling at about 60 kilometres per second, this is the incredible light show that it creates," said Edmonton space educator Randy Atwood.
Atwood said the meteor was probably no bigger than a grapefruit, and may have broken into small pieces before hitting the ground, or it may have burned up entirely before touching down.
"It was a beautiful show and some people might have thought it was just over the hill, and that it was the size of a house," he said.
Officials at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) confirmed whatever was seen was not man-made and does not pose a threat to security.