Ontario Fireball Sets Off Meteorite Hunt

Written by The Night Sky Guy on March 21, 2014 – 2:28 pm -

This is a shot of the bright metoer that streaked across southwestern Ontario on March 18, 2014 as captured by special all-sky camera monitors. Credit: University of Western Ontario

This is a shot of the bright meteor that streaked across southwestern Ontario on March 18, 2014 as captured by special all-sky camera monitors. Credit: University of Western Ontario

On Tuesday, March 18 at 10:24 pm EDT a super-bright fireball lit up southwestern Ontario skies.

Here is a photo captured by Univ. Western Ontario all-sky camera of the meteor event. Researchers now estimate it was a meteor the size of a basketball that entered Earth`s atmosphere. The cosmic intruder spend about 5 seconds traveling through North American skies before the air pressure pulverized it. Meteor experts say this is the first time in a half decade that such a bright event happened in Ontario.

The space rock most likely fragmented with pieces probably making it to the ground. Now the hunt is on for meteorites just 5 km NW of St. Thomas, Ontario. According to researchers the odds of finding a fragment of the meteor are small since it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack but the general public has the best shot.

Stay tuned for more details as they are made available.

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Glimpse Giant Asteroid Glide Through Taurus

Written by The Night Sky Guy on February 6, 2014 – 4:22 pm -

A giant asteroid, first seen 110 years ago, is making a rare appearance for backyard astronomers this month.

Usually so far away from Earth that only very large telescopes can spot it, 532 Herculina will be coming closer to Earth than usual, thereby allowing small backyard scopes to observe it as it sails through the horns of Taurus, the bull constellation in the evening skies.  Making the hunt even easier, the 230 km wide space rock will be gliding past a naked-eye star this week and then a famous supernova remnant- the Crab nebula.

Path of asteroid Herculina within Taurus Constellation in February 2014

Path of asteroid Herculina within Taurus Constellation in February 2014

Despite its high asteroid number – referring to the order of its discovery – Herculina probably ranks in the top 10 in terms of mass. The giant rock has also been at a center of a mystery surrounding the possibility of it having an orbiting satellite asteroid. Despite multiple observations by amateur astronomers watching Herculina during occultations of stars back in the late 1970’s and 80’s, Hubble Space Telescope failed to find any evidence of a moon when it looked in 1993.

Miss this encounter with Herculina and you will have to wait until 2019.

Check out my full viewer’s guide with finder charts at National Geographic News.

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Eastern Canada Meteor Event Confirmed

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 28, 2013 – 7:10 pm -

If skies would have been clear Tuesday night then skywatchers might have witnessed a bright fireball like this one.

If skies would have been clear Tuesday night then skywatchers might have witnessed a bright fireball like this one.

Yes that loud sonic boom and flash of light in the sky on Tuesday night at 7:47 pm EST was indeed a meteor racing across the southern Ontario, eastern Quebec region.

Prof.Peter Brown, a leading expert on meteor physics at the University of Western Ontario reports that infrasonic microphones, part of the USArray network of seismological detectors across the continent detected the series of shockwaves produced by the break up of the meteor as it traveled at supersonic speeds across the region.

“From a very casual examination of the records from five of these stations, it appears the fireball went roughly north-south passing almost right over the Island of Montreal,” said Brown in an email statement.

According to the data, the meteor had energy- on the order of less than a ton of TNT at most, indicating that the space rock might have weighed in the tens of kilograms category, explained Brown.

In comparison, the Russian meteor event in February measured some 20 meters across and had enerrgy equivalent of more than 500 kilotons of TNT.

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Possible Meteor Rattles Ontario-Quebec Skies

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 27, 2013 – 12:16 am -

Folks from Ottawa, Ontario through Laval, Quebec are reporting a blue flash of light followed by a sonic boom that occurred around 7:50 pm ET, November 26th.

This may be signs of a meteor event and could indicate the stone – which could be anywhere in size from a sofa to compact car- may have fragmented with some bits making it to the ground.  Scientists will comb through all the observation reports along with any photo and video evidence so that they can triangulate the trajectory of the possible meteor fall.

Thankfully this appears to be a minor event since there are no reports of any damage -not like what we saw earlier this year occur in Siberia where a 20 meter wide, 60 ton space rock exploded in the atmosphere and injured 1500.

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Brightest Moon Blast Ever Recorded

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 26, 2013 – 11:32 am -


Actual image recording the 1 second long flash as seen by 14 inch NASA telescope on the ground. Credit: NASA

A boulder-sized meteor slammed into the moon in March, igniting an explosion so bright that anyone looking up at the right moment might have spotted it, NASA announced Friday.

NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office is reporting the discovery of the brightest impact seen on the moon in the eight year history of the monitoring program.

Some 300 lunar impact events have been logged over the years but this latest impact, from March 17, is considered many orders of magnitude brighter than anything else observed.

Check out more details on this lunar explosion and what NASA will be doing at my National Geographic News story.

Don’t forget you can always get late-breaking, instant stargazing news anytime by joining my fanpage on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or get email alerts sent directly to your inbox

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Meteors Seen from Comet Hartley?

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 4, 2010 – 3:25 pm -

Closeup view of comet Hartley from EPOXI probe

Closeup view of comet Hartley from EPOXI probe

Did Earth encounter pieces of an alien visitor Wednesday night? Apparently so! It appears tiny pieces of Comet Hartley 2 may have presented a spectacular and startling sky show across the country. NASA meteor experts had predicted it was a long shot, but the evenings of November 2nd and 3rd might display a meteor shower from dust which puffed off this visiting comet as it passed within twelve million miles of Earth. And indeed, the Center for Astrophysics has collected several sightings of bright meteors called fireballs, which result when comet dust burns up in Earth’s atmosphere.

Helga Cabral in Seascape, California, reported after 9 pm Wednesday  night, “I saw a bright white ball and tail, arcing towards the ocean. It was quite beautiful and it looked like it was headed out to sea and so picture perfect it could have been a movie!” Three thousand miles away just north of Boston, Teresa Witham witnessed a similar cosmic event.

Reports say that Wednesday nights bright shooting star looked a lot like this image of a bright meteor seen streaking across Texas skies earlier this year

Reports say that Wednesday night's bright shooting star looked a lot like this image of a bright meteor seen streaking across Texas skies in 2008: Howard Edin (c)2008

“I was in the Revere area about 7:15 last night, driving north on Route 1, when a brilliant object with a tail passed in front of me — very similar in appearance to a shooting star but it appeared much lower to the Earth than a typical shooting star would be. If it weren’t for the fact that I had my daughter with me, I’d begin to believe I’d imagined it.”

Comet Hartley 2 has put on quite a nice show for amateur astronomers over the past few weeks, sporting a vivid green coma or halo around it and a golden auburn tail of dust. NASA’s Deep Impact/EPOXI probe will present dramatic close-up images of the comet when it zooms past the nucleus on November 4th.

When a comet approaches the Sun, it heats up unevenly, throwing off dust, ice and bits of rock. When the Earth encounters some of this space debris, it is seen as a beautiful meteor shower.

“Many people don’t realize that the famous periodic meteor shower in August, the Perseids, is the remains of Comet Swift-Tuttle and the Orionids, appearing in late October, are leftovers from Comet Halley,” said Tim Spahr, Director of the Minor Planet Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA.

So for the next two evenings, we may see more of Comet Hartley 2. And if you have dark skies and a small telescope or binoculars, try to find Comet Hartley 2 itself. It will be near the bright star Procyon in the constellation Canis Minor near Orion the Hunter, which will be high overhead in the early hours before dawn.

– adapted from a news announcement from: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

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New Video of Midwestern Fireball

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 15, 2010 – 3:44 pm -

Take a look at this cool video compilation of the the green fireball seen over much of the U.S. Midwestern region last night. Police stations and the FAA got flooded with calls from eyewitnesses who saw this meteor shooting across the heavens and creating a big light show and even sonic boom heard across many states. No reports yet of any fragments making it to the ground.

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Meteor Counts Rising

Written by The Night Sky Guy on December 12, 2009 – 7:47 pm -

Update Dec.13, 10 am EST:  Overnight numbers of pre-peak Geminids are amazing. About 24 hours before the predicted peak observers reported seeing around 50 meteors per hour! Take a look at the chart below for details…With any luck those number should double or triple tonight.  More updates this afternoon.


Worldwide Geminid observers are already reporting that they are seeing meteor numbers slowly beginning to rise the day before the scheduled peak. Early numbers from Europe Saturday night are averaging about 17 shooting stars hourly, with some counts in the low 30’s! All this points to a great show Sunday night. Check out the chart below which shows the meteor numbers as reported LIVE around the globe to the International Meteor Organization, the clearinghouse for shooting star observations.
LIVE Geminid meteor observations

LIVE Geminid meteor observations

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Ontario Meteor Pieces Recovered

Written by The Night Sky Guy on October 17, 2009 – 11:27 am -

Looks like a few fragments from the September 25th fireball seen across Southern ontario have been found – in Grimsby, Ontario – exactly where the university researchers thought pieces would fall. But what is interesting is how and where they were found. In two separate finds, both rocks fell on private property. The first , weighing in at 46 grams smashed through an SUV windshield and the second fell on undisclosed private land.  They are now in the hands of University of Western Ontario scientists who will be studying these ancient time capsules, they hope will help them understand a bit about the formation of our solar system nearly 5 billion years ago.

Check out some of the articles in the press:

Grimsby meteorite found

Second meteorite found near site of first space rock

CBC News Report from Friday Press conference held by UWO researchers;  Grimsby meteorite on display

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Zeroing in on Meteor Fall Zone

Written by The Night Sky Guy on October 13, 2009 – 3:14 pm -

click to enlarge; Hamilton Cam

click to enlarge; Hamilton Cam

Update October 13: A veteran meteorite hunter from Buffalo, NY got his hands on some local doppler radar data of the September 25th Ontario fireball and has created a streetmap of where meteorite recovery may be most promising.  Check out the new, more precise localized hunt zone. Tip of the hat to spaceweather.com for this report.

Researchers at University of Western Ontario have a hunch that the September 25th Fireball seen in Ontario and Ohio may have rained down several kilograms of fragments. It was also clearly caught on all seven of the university’s all sky cameras. Check out the most spectacular footage from the Hamilton camera – you can see a bright light show right over the city. Watch carefully, at the end of the film you can see the fireball break up into individual fiery pieces.  So now we know that their is a real chance of finding meteorites on the ground from this event….Here is what the UWO Meteor Physics Group is saying about the event and where you might look for pieces…

“The fireball was seen widely by observers throughout southern Ontario and adjacent areas. The fireball was first detected by Western’s camera systems at an altitude of 100km over Guelph moving southeastwards at 20.8 km/s. The meteoroid was initially the size of a child’s tricycle. At its brightest, the fireball was approximately 100 times as bright as the full moon. 
click to enlarge;projected meteor fall area near Grimsby, Ontario

click to enlarge;projected meteor fall area near Grimsby, Ontario

Analysis of the all-sky camera records as well as data from Western?s meteor radar and infrasound equipment indicates that this bright fireball was large enough to have dropped meteorites in a region south of Grimsby on the Niagara Peninsula, providing masses that may total as much as several kilograms.
Researchers at Western are interested in hearing from anyone within 10 km of Grimsby who may have witnessed or recorded this evening event, seen or heard unusual events at the time, or who may have found possible fragments of the freshly fallen meteorite. Meteorites are of great scientific value. Note that, in Canada, meteorites belong to the owner of the land upon which they are discovered. If you intend to search, please obtain the permission of the land owner before searching on private land.


Meteorites may best be recognized by their dark and scalloped exterior, and are usually more dense than normal rock and will often attract a fridge magnet due to their metal content. In this fall meteorites may well occur in a small hole produced by their dropping into soil. Meteorites are not dangerous, but we request that any recovered meteorites be placed in a clean plastic bag or container and be handled as little as possible to preserve their scientific information.”

Phil McCausland, a postdoctoral fellow at Western’s Centre for Planetary Science & Exploration, is now working to get the word out amongst interested people who may be willing to see if they can spot any fallen meteorites.

“This particular meteorite fall, if any are found, is very important because its arrival was so well recorded. We have good camera records as well as radar and infrasound detections of the event, so that it will be possible to determine its orbit prior to collision with the Earth and to determine the energy of the fireball event,” says McCausland. “We can also figure out where it came from and how it got here, which is rare. In all of history, only about a dozen meteorite falls have that kind of record.”

 If you have questions, observations or possible meteorites from this Sept. 25th event, please contact:

Dr. Phil McCausland Phone: (519) 661-2111 ext-87985 (UWO Meteor Physics Lab)
Cell: (519) 694-3323


e-mail: pmccausl at uwo.ca

You can find the more video from the other cameras in the region and even cool computer animation the researchers put together that show the trajectory of the incoming meteor as it entered the atmosphere on their official webpage.

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