Odds of back-to-back Manitoba meteors ‘astronomical,’ says expert

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Odds of back-to-back Manitoba meteors ‘astronomical,’ says expert
What's typically a once in a lifetime sighting happened not once but twice in the past couple days, when a meteor was spotted in the sky across Manitoba. Global's Abigail Turner spoke with one person who captured the incredible light show on camera – Mar 24, 2022

The meteor that lit up the sky Wednesday night in the Interlake wasn’t the only one Manitobans saw this week.

Astronomer Scott Young from the Manitoba Planetarium told 680 CJOB the province — as well as nearby areas — had the extremely rare treat of seeing back-to-back meteors Tuesday and Wednesday.

“It was all across southern Manitoba —  in fact, all the way down into North Dakota and off into Saskatchewan … just like the one that happened the night before,” Young said.

“The timing of these two things — the odds against it are astronomical.

“Usually we might see one or two across that month period, rather than having them back-to-back in the same area. Literally, if you were in the right spot, you could’ve seen this once-in-a-lifetime thing on Tuesday and then seen another once-in-a-lifetime thing the following night.”

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Despite the show in the sky on two consecutive nights, Young said the two appear to be completely unrelated — making the astral event even more of a rarity.

“They’re not following the same orbit, they aren’t coming from the same direction or anything like that,” he said. “There’s been over 100 reports of them by now, so we have a pretty good sense of what their trajectory was.

“They don’t seem to be related, it just seems to be the luck of the randomness of the universe that we had these two back to back.”

Young said Wednesday’s meteor appeared to be about the size of a basketball — considerably larger than the shooting stars Manitobans are typically able to spot, which tend to be between the size of a grain of sand and a grain of rice.

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Another Manitoba meteor enthusiast tracking the progress of the province’s twin shooting stars was science writer Chris Rutkowski, who said while meteors are typically burned up before touching down on Earth, there’s great interest in finding out where they may have landed.

Read more: Telescope contest for Manitoba’s kid astronomers

“Astronomers have been tracking meteorites — trying to find meteorites on the ground for a number of years, because they hold clues to the origin of the solar system,” Rutkowski told 680 CJOB.

“The more reports (researchers) get, the better they can triangulate and figure out where this thing came down.”

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Rutkowski says based on what he’s seen, a best guess for a potential location would be somewhere along the Manitoba/Saskatchewan border — but it could also possibly be as far west as Regina or as far east as the Interlake.

“It’s hard to tell if anything could be found, and it may take some effort to track this down,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Aurora chasing in Manitoba'
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