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‘Once or twice in a lifetime’ meteor sighting lights up Winnipeg skies

The planetarium at the Manitoba Museum.
The planetarium at the Manitoba Museum. Wikipedia

If you happened to be outside around 6:30 a.m. Friday, you might have caught sight of something big and bright in the sky.

According to the Manitoba Planetarium’s Scott Young, what people across Winnipeg spotted was likely a bolide — also known as a fireball — a very, very bright meteor.

And despite being a relatively common object in the night sky, it’s not all that common for a person to see one in action.

“It’s one of those maybe once in a lifetime or twice in a lifetime sightings, so if you saw it, good for you,” Young told 680 CJOB’s The Start.

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“One of these happens somewhere in the world probably every day, but of course, most of the world doesn’t have people on it, so the odds of an individual seeing it are pretty low … but this actually rains down from outer space pretty commonly.”

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Young said while most fireballs tend to be between the size of a grain of sand or a small marble, Friday’s sighting was potentially a bigger piece of material, possibly as large as a grapefruit.

When it comes to these meteors, however, it’s not the size that matters — it’s the speed.

“It’s not very big, but it’s coming in at amazing speeds — tens of thousands of kilometres an hour,” he said.

“So when it hits the Earth’s atmosphere, it’s just a huge amount of energy that has to turn from speed into something else, so it turns into heat and light, and basically just vaporizes, and you get this beautiful effect.”

Young said a very minor meteor shower has been visible in the night sky in recent weeks, so the fireball could be connected to that.

If you spotted the meteor, Young said you should report it to the International Meteor Organization.

“It automatically puts it on a map and helps people track it, so that’s really, really important to report if you saw it.”

Click to play video: 'Odds of back-to-back Manitoba meteors ‘astronomical,’ says expert'
Odds of back-to-back Manitoba meteors ‘astronomical,’ says expert

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