Reports, photos and video came flooding in Wednesday night after a strange bright light was seen in the sky across northern Alberta.
“We did get a lot of calls here at the Telus World of Science Edmonton,” said Frank Florian, the facility’s director of planetarium and space sciences. “We got emails from a lot of people over Alberta about this big, bright fireball that was seen to the northeast of Edmonton.”
That, according to Florian, is good news for science.
“There’s a bright fireball — bright meteor — crossing Alberta, which could lead to some meteorites being found.
“Meteorites are valuable for researchers, astronomers, geologists because they are kind of a look back at the early history of our solar system,” Florian explained. “When we take a look at these rocks from space, they kind of give us a clue about what the solar system was made out of… four and a half billion years ago.”
The mysterious bright light was seen falling from the sky at around 5:22 p.m. Wednesday. Dash-cam video of the phenomenon was shared with Global News by an Edmonton motorist.
But further north, the sight was even more impressive.
“At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Khristine Lavery said, “but I played it back and sure enough it was.”
Lavery lives in Fort McMurray and her doorbell security camera captured some amazing footage of the meteor.
“I couldn’t believe that there’s that little slice between my garage and my front window and it fell right there. It’s crazy.”
After reading about the fireball on Wednesday night, she decided to go back through her security footage and see if anything was caught on camera. The main camera didn’t show anything specific, just a big flash of light.
“I checked the other camera, which I didn’t think would catch anything because you couldn’t see much of the sky at all, and there it was, dead centre,” Lavery said.
Watch below: Researchers want to get information from people in the Fort McMurray area who heard booms when a fireball fell from the sky Wednesday evening. Kent Morrison explains.
“I played it for the kids and sent it to my husband… they were all pretty excited. My son was taking the video to school today to show his friends. Show and tell,” she said with a laugh.
Florian believes people up north, like Lavery, likely had the best view.
“People from northern Alberta — primarily Fort McMurray — individuals in that location actually heard audible sounds — like big bangs, sonic booms, in a way — after this rock flashed a couple of times up in that area. Security camera footage I’ve seen… also suggests it was closer to Fort McMurray, Lac La Biche… the final remnants might be somewhere in that area.”
After looking at a number of videos of the light, Florian believes the rock broke apart and fragmented.
“You can see a couple of air bursts where the bright meteor gets brighter — that’s the air itself heating up in front of the rock that’s giving that light. The rock is trying to pass through the earth’s atmosphere and there’s that friction going on and eventually the rock gets down so far, the air can’t move out of the way fast enough.
“We saw a couple of these in the video where it gets bright and then dims out and then it gets really, really bright and then it’s gone.”
Florian said bursts of light like that usually mean meteorites could be found somewhere.
“People in areas of northern Alberta, northeastern Alberta, if they are out and about and they see a black rock… report it to us and maybe it could be one of these meteorites from this object that fell through the earth’s atmosphere.”
He said winter can be a good time to locate meteorites since their black exterior stands out in the white snow.
“Meteorites, because of their rarity and that they’re not of this earth, they do have some monetary value but again, the big thing… is their scientific value,” Florian said.
LISTEN: Frank Florian speaks with 630 CHED’s Ryan Jespersen after the fireball was seen in the sky on Wednesday night
He estimates a stony meteorite might sell for about $10 a gram. Still, he stressed these pieces of rock could be priceless for researchers.
“It’s a bit like a time capsule. We can actually see how the earth and everything else was made. A lot of these things are almost pristine from the time of the formation of the solar system so they haven’t been changed much since that time. So, they do give us those clues of the early history of the solar system.”
To report a fireball sighting, you can fill out a report form on the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s website.
Watch below: Man captures video of strange bright light in the sky while driving northeast of Edmonton