May 5, 2014 12:45 pm

Experts confirm fireball over Toronto, eastern Ontario was meteor

WATCH ABOVE: Dashboard camera captures meteor streaking over GTA

TORONTO – Western University astronomers have confirmed that the bright fireball many witnessed across Toronto and eastern Ontario Sunday afternoon was indeed a meteor.

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Margaret Campbell-Brown, associate professor of physics and astronomy at Western University told Global News that the department received infrasound data on the meteor, shedding some light on the space debris.

READ MORE: Meteor eludes all-sky cameras in southern Ontario

“We think that the object was about between half a metre to one metre in size,” Campbell-Brown said. “So it would have weighed a few hundred kilograms, maybe up to a metric tonne. So it was a reasonably large object.”

The meteor, which fell around 4:15 p.m. on Sunday, was not only seen, but was also heard — and felt.

“The kids were outside and heard it,” Jay Callaghan, who was in Peterborough at the time, told Global News. “I just came in and was in [the] house when the room shook… Once I saw the Twitter comments on a bright flash, loud boom I knew exactly what it was.”

WATCH: Dashboard cameras see meteor streaking over Toronto

Campbell-Brown said the meteor was travelling from west to east towards Belleville.

Meteors are caused by debris — usually quite small, some just grains of dust — travelling through our atmosphere. Meteorites are meteors that make it to the ground.

Though the meteor was heard — which could indicate it exploded, possibly leaving meteorites — astronomers don’t know if there are any fragments on the ground. And because it’s difficult to narrow in on the exact location due to lack of extensive video evidence, there are no plans to send a team to search for it.

“It’s just too large an area right now,” Campbell-Brown said. But, she added:

“If people are on the alert for unusual rocks, or damage to sheds or cars, people may help us to nail down the area by finding pieces of it.”

The American Meteor Society also received numerous reports of the fireball. The following is a map of the Ontario reports it received on Sunday:

Meteor reports

Right now Earth is passing through debris left over from the passage of Halley’s Comet. This creates a meteor shower, called the Eta Aquariids. However, Sunday’s meteor was not associated with it. Astronomers have been able to calculate a preliminary orbit and it indicates that the orbit was more typical of an asteroid, rather than of a comet.

The Eta Aquariids travel around 60 kilometres a second, but this was travelling at less than 20 kilometres a second, as determined from the videos.

READ MORE: Western University researchers find asteroids like Russian event more likely than believe

Looking at the video, however, it may seem like the meteor was travelling quite fast. That’s all due to perspective.

“It was moving at a fairly steep angle down and people were looking at it at kind of right angles, so you’re seeing all the speed in the field of view,” Campbell-Brown said.

As for how often a daytime meteor happens, Campbell-Brown said that it might happen a few times a week. Due to the fact that our planet is mostly covered in oceans (and then add in deserts and the poles), they go unobserved.

“For one to occur in daylight over a populated area is fairly rare.”

If you witnessed the fireball, report it to the American Meteor Society.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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