A dreary Saturday evening in the Edmonton area was interrupted when a meteor whizzed over the city at 10:23 p.m.
Bruce McCurdy, an amateur astronomer and a writer for the Journal’s Cult of Hockey blog, had front-row seats to the action. He was volunteering at the Telus World of Science’s RASC Observatory, chatting with visitors, when he was interrupted by a bright flash of light.
“I happened to be standing beside one of the telescopes, right under the sky, talking to a couple of visitors, and this interloper came firing across the southeastern sky and left its mark,” McCurdy said. “It got a huge reaction from the people who were there, myself included.”
While the meteor passed far too quickly for detailed measurements — it was overhead for five seconds, at most — McCurdy quickly made note of some key attributes of the event. He then used that information to file a report with the International Meteor Organization.
“In the shock of the moment, I tried to get an accurate sense of the details,” McCurdy said. “The direction, how fast it was going, how bright it was, what colour it was, the fragmentation that we saw near the end.”
In his 33 years of watching the skies, it was the second brightest fireball McCurdy has ever seen. The first, by far, was the famed Buzzard Coulee meteorite, which fell over Saskatchewan in 2008 and split into over a thousand pieces, sparking an intensive search.
This meteor could spur a similar but smaller-scale search, McCurdy said. Using videos and eyewitness reports, astronomers will triangulate the probable landing area for any pieces of meteorite.
“The fireball, in my opinion, was bright enough that there’s a non-zero chance it produced meteorites. And a non-zero chance of meteorites means a 100 per cent chance of follow-up,” McCurdy said.
“The hope is that if there was a fall, it didn’t come down somewhere like a lake, that it actually came down somewhere you can pursue it.”
Social media was immediately abuzz with excitement after the night sky lit up, with users sharing videos of the meteor. Sightings came in from a wide area of north central Alberta — from Wabamun, 70 kilometres west of Edmonton, all the way to to Vilna, which is 150 kilometres northeast of the city.
In an era-appropriate turn of events, almost all of the many clips of the fireball were recorded by doorbell cameras.