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Possible meteor lights up the skies in Alberta
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, November 20, 2008 10:50PM EST
EDMONTON - A possible meteor lit up both the sky and the telephone lines in Western Canada on Thursday evening.
Around 5:30 p.m., a huge flash of light briefly turned the dark skies into daylight.
Reports of sightings of the light and possibly a fireball came from Edmonton to Regina to Swan River, Man.
People got so excited that RCMP in Lloydminster, on the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary, issued a news release asking people to stop calling them.
The excitement quickly spread to the scientific community, which was agog with the possibility the fireball might have dropped meteorites to the ground.
"Wow. That's impressive," said Chris Herd, associate professor of Earth and Atmospheric sciences at the University of Alberta, when told of the wide geographical swath of reports.
"To see something from that far away, that's pretty substantial. The potential is that it's big. That tells you that the meteoroid is probably a good size. There's a pretty high chance that it dropped meteorites."
He said that pinpointing the location of any meteorites depends on two factors -- people calling in to say they've found such space rocks, and people calling to report how far afield the fireball was spotted.
"The more reports that you have into that fireball-reporting ... the more data you have and then people can reduce that data and try and pinpoint where it may have landed."
He said typically, meteorites fall within a radius of a few kilometres.
The source of the meteor can only be determined once the meteorites are examined, said Heard, who is also curator of a collection of meteorites at the Edmonton university.
"The vast majority of the meteorites that we have, we're fairly certain, come from the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter."
Marcel Gobeil was on his acreage west of Beaumont, Alta., waiting for his wife to come home at the time.
"I just happened to look outside facing east," he said. "All of a sudden I saw this big flash coming down and I thought somebody was playing tricks on me, like fireworks behind the house or something.
"Just before that I heard a boom. I didn't know if it was a tree against the house. It was green and blue and it was coming down pretty fast."
Gobeil said the light display eventually turned orange, yellow and red and lasted 10 seconds.
"I was waiting for it to explode," he said. "It looked similar to when we watch (news reports) in Afghanistan. When I didn't see that, I said, `well, that's something from outer space.' I'm sure it landed way out in Winnipeg or something."
Gobeil said he only wished he'd gotten a picture of the other-worldly event.
"It's exciting -- both scary and really nice."