People across Alberta and Saskatchewan were treated to a bright light other than the rising sun on Monday morning.
A quick flash was seen streaking across the early morning sky by people in Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon, with reports early risers in the Alberta communities of Vulcan County and Stavely and the Saskatchewan community of Elstow also saw the spectacle.
Videos from security cameras sent to Global News and posted to Twitter show a glowing ball of light falling fast toward the Earth, briefly lighting up the dark sky and leaving a long, bright streak in its wake.
Some lucky morning people who caught a glimpse of the display reported the bright light was red, green and yellow.
People said the bright light lit up the sky just before 6:30 a.m. MST.
“It sure woke me up, I can tell you that,” said Saskatoon resident Joe Speer, who saw the light while driving to work.
“I was kind of lucky to see that. You rarely see that.”
Storry also captured footage on her security camera. She said she felt lucky to have seen the spectacle.
“It was like a flame… an ember shooting across the skyline of downtown Edmonton. It was so close. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
According to professor and curator of meteorite collection at the University of Alberta Dr. Chris Herd, the bright flash was likely a meteor — and because it was “particularly bright,” they’re classifying it as a fireball.
“It means that some kind of a rock has come through the atmosphere and the outside is heated up to give us that bright fireball that people have caught on their doorbell cameras and other places,” Herd told 630 CHED Mornings.
Herd said it’s possible experts will locate fragments of the meteor, called meteorites, but it depends on the size.
“The brighter it is, the bigger the rock that enters the atmosphere.”
The outside of the meteor heats up and eventually breaks the meteor into smaller pieces, and Herd said if the chunk of space rock — which likely broke off an asteroid — was big enough to start with, it could mean sizeable pieces can be found and studied.
Where those fragments could have landed, though, is a total mystery.
The end point of the bright streak of the meteor is typically as much as 15 to 20 kilometres in altitude, Herd said, meaning the chunks of rock continue falling in what’s called “dark flight.”
“People need to be aware that it’s a bit of an optical illusion,” he said. “What we need is observations from different orientations so we can literally triangulate.”
Herd said in November 2008, a large fireball was seen in the Alberta sky and many people believed it “landed” in the Edmonton river valley, but the fragments were actually found an entire province away in Saskatchewan.
Frank Florian, manager of planetarium and space sciences at the TELUS World of Science, said footage captured by the Athabasca University Geospace Observatory, along with home footage, will help them zero in on a more precise location.
“It seemed like it was seen in the north, northwest of the province. We’d like to hear from people in Grande Prairie,” Florian said. “But we will have to take a look at all the footage to see if these bits of rock landed.”
The scientist said the encounter is rare and sporadic, but mid-February until the end of April is the best time to see “spring fireballs.”
“The Earth encounters more of these larger pieces of material that rain down on Earth and give us a spectacular fireball.
“This may be one of just a few we might be able to see if you’re in the right time at the right place.”
Herd said Monday’s light show was likely a one-off, and different from a meteor shower, which is classified by the Earth passing through a collection of space dust.
Anyone who saw or captured video of the meteor is encouraged to submit their information to the American Meteor Society’s Report a Fireball site.
-With files from Anna McMillan and Morgan Black, Global News