People in southern Ontario may have witnessed a rare space event this week.
“On Monday evening there was a very bright fireball that basically started over the central part of Lake Ontario and moved to the northeast and ended just to the north of Peterborough,” says Peter Brown, Director of Western University's Centre of Planetary and Space exploration. “We think there's a very good chance that meteorites survived the fireball and have reached the ground.”
Brown says an event like this that produces a good chance of meteorites on the ground in southern Ontario happens maybe every one or two years.
“It's pretty rare, and it's also pretty rare to have it happen in a place where there's so much chance of recovery,” he says. “Most of them end up in the Great Lakes or some place that's very inaccessible. This is not ideal territory but it's possible that someone might be able to recover something in this region.”
As a result, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and The University of Western Ontario (UWO) are looking for help from local residents who witnessed, or who may have found fragments, of the meteorite.
“We think there are meteorites down to the east side of the town of Selwyn. This is a region of upper Stoney Lake,” explains Brown. “So residents in that area we're asking people to keep an eye out for possible meteorites on the ground.”
Meteorites are dark in colour, heavy for their size, possibly magnetic and should stand out as being somewhat unusual compared to other rocks.
Brown is also hoping that anyone who saw the meteorite will contact him.
“If there are people in the general area of Stoney Lake who actually saw this fireball or heard the fireball, we'd be very interested in hearing from them. They can contact me by email at email@example.com.”
Despite happening near the Geminid meteor shower, Brown says this incident is not connected.
“It just by chance happened to occur the same time,“ he explains. “It's just a random piece of an asteroid that happened to enter the atmosphere Monday night.”
Brown insists that a meteor like this would not have been considered dangerous.
“It's not moving particularly fast when it hits. It's not hot, it's actually quite cool to the touch,” he says. “It can only be dangerous if you are hit by the meteorite, which would be pretty incredibly bad luck.”