Bright Meteor Seen Over Western Canada

Article written: 21 Nov , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

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A bright fireball lit up the sky over parts of Canada and was probably a meteor which may have hit the ground in central Alberta. Reports from all over western Canada said the bright flashes occurred at 5:30 pm MST on Nov. 20. The bolide split the evening sky and fragmented during a series of booming explosions. The image above is from a video taken by Andy Bartlett, who recorded the event from a 10th-floor apartment in Edmonton, Alberta with his Canon A510. Watch the movie here. “The brilliant fireball appeared to be closer than the airplane in the upper right corner of this video,” said Bartlett. Another video was taken by a serendipitously placed surveillance camera. See a news report from a Canadian television station here.

So what was this object?

The possibility of the object being part of a Russian rocket has been ruled out, but astronomers say it will take time for experts to work through videos and photos to find out what exactly occurred. Astronomers need views of the event from at least two sites to triangulate where a meteorite might have hit and where any small pieces could possibly be found. However, it may have burned up completely in the atmosphere. One educator said the object was probably no bigger than the size of a grapefruit as it entered Earth’s atmosphere, probably traveling about 60 km per second.

Sources: Space Weather
, MSN news

Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today’s Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT’s Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.


61 Responses

  1. Tyler says

    I saw the meteor for a split second from a window in my apartment. The entire sky lit up like someone switched on a huge spotlight. When i looked up i saw the huge fireball. Never seen anything like it. Amazing how something the size of a grapefruit can do that.

  2. Eric says

    Could it really be only the size of a grapefruit if it was seen throughout most of an entire Canadian province and parts of two others?

  3. Ron says

    My money is on Russian Rockets. 😉

  4. Tyler says

    Thats a good question. I read it was traveling approximately 60km/s when it entered the atmosphere. At that speed it would’ve taken roghly 30 seconds to cover the area in which it was observed. Can a meteor the size of a grapefruit survive that long in the atmosphere going that fast?

  5. Marie says

    Want to add more to your questions? I think I witnessed the same thing. I’m in southwest Louisiana! I was home at about 5:30 p.m., my time, when I saw this fly over my home. I was stunned because I’ve never seen anything like it before.

  6. Jason says

    Yes, it can be the size of a grapefruit and still be seen…but only when it hits the earths surface is it that small. It was likely quite larger before entering the earths atmosphere, but upon entry to the atmosphere meteors very rapidly crumble. Think, a rock traveling 60KM per second + hitting a surface, which is essentially what our atmosphere (filled with O2 and other gases) is. That friction imposed upon the meteorite by the atmosphere would’ve ripped that thing to shreds by the time its smoldering remnants hit the surface of the earth.

  7. Marie says

    Does anyone have any idea what it might have looked like as it actually approached as opposed to viewing it from the “after” shots or side? I ask this because about 2 or 3 minutes before I saw it shoot by, I was driving home and saw a very bright white light in the sky ahead of me. I first thought it might have been an airplane, but it was not in the ordinary paths that the flights take here. I then saw the meteor over the house when I walked out front to check the mail. I’m sure the light probably was an airplane, but is it possible that I may have seen it as it was approaching?

  8. E.I says

    An e-mail I’ve sent today to http://www.spaceweather.com and I’d like to share with this website as well:

    Hi,

    My name is Eran and I’m from Israel.
    On Nov. 20th, local time – 06:30 pm, I saw the exact same thing on the night sky.

    Back in 2003, I saw a shooting star on the horizon for the first time in my life, so a few days ago I was pretty happy to see this kind of rare thing again (and this time it was REALLY close). It lasted for 1-3 seconds and I can describe it as a very bright white light, similar to the video which was posted.

    It was pretty amazing and I was quite excited afterwards.
    Today, I read a message on a news forum, which led lead me to http://www.spaceweather.com
    I must say I got excited again, but now I wonder what it was…

  9. Melanie says

    Regarding Seeing Things in the night sky,
    This is what I saw while traveling south on
    Montezuma in Prescott AZ tonight at 5 50 arizona time a bit of space debris or meteor,
    went shooting from the east to the west
    It was like over the Bradshaws!
    south of Prescott, in the sky
    it raced at a fair click, within 5 seconds it was
    out west, pretty good, And all i could say was… o o o O! As I was driving i had to be careful, The object suddenly appeared bright – was blue white in the center, with cloudy around it and a short tail, that left NO vapor or smoke. I Leaned forward and the trees were in the way.
    I would like to know if anyone else observed
    this object.
    Thank you.
    Melanie Mather

  10. Karen says

    Melanie,
    We were at a park in Scottsdale, AZ and we happened to witness the same thing. It was larger than a star and pretty low. Great description! Where we were, it did look like it left a trail.

  11. Sally says

    Don’t know if this is the same meteor that hit in Canada. It was sometime between 5 & 6:00 here in South Central Louisiana when I saw a fire ball go by. It looked pretty big (had to have been much bigger than a grapefruit though) with a definite fire trail. And it was traveling much lower that the planes fly. No smoke in the tail, just fire. It was traveling Northeast. I think I could have counted to 8 or 10 before it disappeared. This same fireball could have passed over Arizona, but I’m puzzled over a Canada landing. Perhaps there were 2 that night. Very amazing to see.

  12. Xlbrew says

    It’s amazing that at least 2 nice clear videos were taken of this object which lasted just a few seconds in the night sky. What’s more amazing is that videos of UFO’s, some of which are supposedly witnessed for minutes or even hours, are never as clear or focused. Hmmm…..

  13. Steve says

    So one educator said it was probably no bigger than a grapefruit BEFORE it entered Earths atmosphere. What does this educator teach? Kindergarten? If anyone has seen the video footage of the object or actually saw it first hand it was clearly much larger than a grapefruit. Sally (above) claims to have seen a similar fireball about the same time. Could there be two? How big was it to begin with? Lots of questions indeed but very little answers. There is always one thing that I find more surprising than an object that falls to Earth and that is how things like this are downplayed by the media and the government. No doubt this will be brushed under the carpet faster than a dissipating smoke trail.

  14. Rob says

    fireballs are only visible at ranges of about 300km. I wold suspect the events viewed in the southern states and western canada are separate

  15. Rob says

    Steve – you would agree that the usual meteor yo see on any given night (a quick ‘shooting star’) is pretty darn bright. well do the research if you’d like, or take my word – those are generally caused by particles on the scale of micrometers to millimeters (sand grains and smaller)

    you can imagine that if a grapefruit-sized object started breaking into smaller pieces, the light output increases dramatically with size.

    and for those of you asking about sizes, a good rule of thumb is that the object was about 3 times larger in space than it is once it lands on the ground. This is not the case for large meter/kilometer sized objects – theyre about the same size when they hit the ground 😛

  16. Jon Hanford says

    This event was obviously the reentry of the lost tool bag from the STS-126 mission 🙂 . Seriously, though, Rob has the correct explanation as to the actual physical size of the object seen and the (too) widely spaced reports of similar objects being one in the same. Still, looking at the apparent brightness and reports of booming sounds from observers near the event may bode well for possibly a few small fragments reaching the ground, and a search of the possible landing zone seems warranted. I’ve seen many very bright fireballs and bolides over the years, but none with this great apparent luminosity, so good luck to any and all meteorite hunters. Many thanks, Nancy, for links to videos of this remarkable object. What a blast to see this fireball in all its glory!

  17. Ren says

    Melanie,
    I saw something similar about 50 miles north of Phoenix on the I-17. I was heading southbound when I saw a bright green light shoot from east to west dead ahead of me. I was thinking to myself, “did anyone see that?”

    How amazing!

  18. Sherry Francalancia says

    Amazing and unbelievable. This had to be more than one event. I live in the New Orleans area and refuse to believe that we were witnessing an event in Canada.

  19. qnzfin3stspyd3r says

    but..what i want to know is what can this meteor do if it is a meteor.Can it crush a town or something if it collapse.

  20. Alice says

    I saw it too! I was driving accross Lake Ponchatrain on my way home from work in New Orleans, LA at about 5 pm. I saw this really slow moving streak of green, yellow and blue moving through the sky. It was absolutely breathtaking!

  21. Marie says

    Alice,

    That sounds exactly like what I saw in Lafayette, Louisiana. I’ve only come across one other person from my area who witnessed it. I also saw that the airport tower in New Orleans also reported seeing it.

  22. Qaiss says

    Hi, is there a possibility that this meteor can be seen from Kuwait, i swear i have seen a bright light that broke up over Kuwait city at 10pm local time, we are 3+ GMT.

  23. Cheryl says

    I live about 1/2 hr drive south of Lloydminster on the AB/ SK border in Canada. This meteor lit up our entire yard with an eerie white light going from comple darkness to as bright as daylight for approx. 3 seconds. At this time of year in this area it is very dark by 5 p.m. I saw it out my kitchen window as I was preparing supper. My husband was outside on the deck on his way into the house….he said his first thought was that he was dying! I rushed outside to see what was going on. Approximately 20 seconds after the brilliant light we heard a series of deep rumbling booms that lasted for about 10 seconds. Freaky but very exciting to experience.

  24. Bravehart says

    I have read your comments, and I must say
    I’m impressed with the number of people
    that observed the event.
    I reserve judgement on the objectivity, based
    on what I did observe, I live in the area and
    judging from the angle and the multiple sound barrier breaches it is highly unlikely
    that people 10,000KM away may have seen
    the same object! This object must have been
    smaller than a beachball, it burned up before it hit the ground! I did hear 2 sonic booms.
    The last one when it broke through the cloud layer! Any object that can produce 2 sound breaches must have an HIGH speed to create that many bow shock’s! Therefore the
    object must have came in under an 80 degree angle or less! The people in the area
    are looking for remnances, but won’t find anything, it burned up completely! The reason
    why I say it, is that at this time of year in this
    area the grass so dry, that a small ember would cause a mayor grass and or forest fire!
    Which was my first thought, that some vacuumbrain shot off a firecracker not carring
    about the consequences! Yes we have our fair share of those here! In conclusion; the object came from outer space it broke appart
    3 separated out of sinc pieces and the light was out about 20 meters above ground! Just before the light died it slowed down and looked like a night flare. That is what I saw.

  25. Melanie says

    It is definately 2 separate sky events. I had not known of the canadian event until reading the Universe Today last night. So we hae a dark hour event up in canada on Thursday evening and a near sunset event that was visible on Friday in the southwest.
    Clearly the meteor events are realated to the area of space we traveled through this week the Leonids. As we know the meteors are various left overs from comet travel, mostly solid ice particles.
    Meteorites, which are commonly found in small rock form on the ground are ancient objects, of black, glossy and irregular shapes. My Mom has several in her rock collection from our area alone here in central Arizona.
    The Tool Bag lost from the space shuttle … that could have been a piece of space junk on any of the days this week, being about a cubic foot of material though would have burned up quickly, leaving behind the heavier metals.
    So, we can say we had two good and surprising events, this week for North America. Canada having the most spectacular event, loved the police cam you tube.
    The southwest event did have a tail, but when it was “out of sight”, I found no con trail aka vapor trail in its wake upon my viewing.
    Hugs to all.
    Melanie

  26. Evan says

    Was there a 2nd meteor another night? I am wondering because I am in Norway & yesterday around 7pm our time we Saw some large bright object that lit up the sky.

    We had no idea what it was?

  27. marcellus says

    A great picture. Much better than the one from the Sudan.

    Better descriptions, too. I’ll bet some of these reports were posted to the Fireball Page of the American Meteor Society.

  28. I was just coming back from fishing in the marshes of SE Louisiana in the town of Delacroix and I saw this bright light streak across the sky. It was Thursday Nov 20 at approx 5:30 and it only lasted a couple of seconds. I was amazed at how close it seemed. It had to be a meteor.

  29. Steve says

    Wow….whats that now 4 separate sightings from different parts of the world? Western Canada, Western US, Kuwait and now Norway. Fantastic!!!

  30. patricia says

    Maybe the US space ship (while it is still up there) could purposely let go of another “tool bag of same metal compositions” (as an experiment) to see if this type of event happens again shortly thereafter.

  31. Jon Hanford says

    @ patricia & Melanie, in my post above, I only referred to the “lost Shuttle tool bag” in jest. Last I’d heard, the tool bag was still being tracked by US Space Command and was not expected to reenter anytime soon (days to weeks, maybe). Also, no hazard to the ISS or Shuttle. And I’m not sure the tool bag, grease guns included, would survive intact to the ground, but would almost certainly create a brilliant fireball.

  32. mighty favog says

    I saw an object at the same time as the Canadian event from here in Houston. Problem is, it was to the ENE, towards Louisiana. At first I thought it was a trick of perspective that made it appear in that direction, perhaps as it was still very high and coming in at a low angle. Problem with that is that its path was nearly vertical, so it was most likely a second object. Still, it was the most spectacular meteor I’ve ever seen.

  33. Eran says

    Bravehart: “Just before the light died it slowed down and looked like a night flare.”

    Exactly what happened over here as well.
    I could see something really bright and white/blue falling REALLY fast, like a shooting star, then just before hitting the ground (maybe 3-5 Storeys high) it slowed down and burned out like a flare in about 1-3 seconds.

    – Eran, Israel

  34. imran. says

    man i wish i saw this thing. any news of where it came from? maybe aliens sent us a gift. a very hard alien grapefruit 😛

  35. greg says

    I live in east tennessee and saw a fireball on 11-8-08 at 9:45 pm out of east going west it was verry bright bluish white verry fast!

  36. Hex says

    I saw two different fireballs on two different nights last week in Roseville, California. Earth must be passing through a bunch of stuff right now. Hope nothing big to come.

  37. Hex says

    Here is the link to the American Meteor Society:

    http://www.amsmeteors.org/fireball/fireball_log2008.html

    I see two candidates for my two sightings. I hope to have a more accurate report having had this experience.

  38. Cherovis says

    During the past week, I have seen 2 meteor burn outs, or “shooting stars” over Lafayette, LA. Both times, they were as bright as looking into a welders torch & burned out completely approximately 100-200 feet above the ground. I’m not one to witness events like this & suddenly I see 2 in one week. Awesome.

  39. Jeff says

    I saw something simular on October 30, 2008 at 11:30pm from Walled Lake, MI. The flash of light went right over my house, as I was outside walking my dogs. It went South-east to Northwest and disappeared over the horizon.

  40. vickie says

    I live just south of Shreveport, La. On Thursday, Nov. 20 about 6:00 p.m., I saw a bright green meteor with a long silver tail going south, low in the sky. Breathtaking!!

  41. Carol Sanders says

    I saw it too !! I was coming home from my daughters on thursday night around 6:30 or 7 . It was like a beam of light with a ball of fire at the end of it. I pulled over to the side of the road cause I thought it was going to hit the houses. I wasn’t sure what it was. I live in Sarnia, Ont.

  42. Heather says

    I saw something at approximately 5:30 p.m. CST in central Mississippi November 20! I was on my way home from work at a stop sign in my car on the phone talking to my mom. They I saw this huge fire ball..had streaks of green and turquoise. I thought it was a plane crashing! I was screaming Oh my gosh!! and then suddenly it went away! It looked SO BIG!

  43. Cindy says

    I saw the one in Louisiana too. I am in north Lafayette/Carencro area. I only caught the end of it, to see it’s last few explosions before it died out. It was just before sunset, so I know it had to be big to see without the dark night sky. I’m glad I found this page as I’ve been trying to find others who had seen it too.

  44. RLT says

    My son was working on an isolated oil rig south of Lloydminster. They thought someone had aimed a phosporous flare at their rig as it appeared to be aimed directly towards them. My son turned away and watched the reflection on the machinery as he said it was far to painful to look at it. The one worker who stayed facing the event got a ‘sun’ burn… They said it turned into about a hundred pieces and there were the most amazing colours of red and blue and purple

  45. Leah says

    My fourteen year old son was shooting hoops last Thursday evening while waiting for me to come out so we could run to the grocery store. As I walked out to my car he suddenly said Whoa! What was that? I walked around to the back of my car and said what are you talking about? He pointed up above our house and said he just saw a huge light go over the house and then it went out. It wasn’t completely dark yet although the sun had already set. We live about 5 miles north of Lake Charles in southwest Louisiana.

  46. Anjers says

    I saw it in New Orleans! A large greenish light arced across the sky over the French Quarter right after sunset when I was walking home from the street car stop. It was really strange, I’ve never seen that kind of light in the sky before, and I felt ridiculous trying to explain it to people. It was surreal. I’m glad other people saw it in Louisiana, too!

  47. Ameez says

    This is so cool, i live in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and i saw this white thing going across the sky and my friend said it was a shooting star but i didn’t believe her as it was too close and slow in speed. This i saw in the day time. Canada is where is landed, that is so cool!!

  48. ACC says

    Hi there, I’m currently located in the Catalan Pyrenees, Spain, and at approx 00.00/00.30 last night saw a HUGE ‘shooting star’, something of such size I had never seen before, complete with visible particles and an evident trail. You could even see the heat forming around the shape, reds and blues. I woke this morning to tell the story, and was pretty excited to see the footage today from Canada. Whoop!

  49. Colette says

    My friend and I were on the phone Friday evening in Glendale, AZ. We were both sitting outside on our patios when suddenly this giant fireball with a tail zoomed overhead. We were both stunned and awed. Since then all I could find out about it pertained to the sighting in Canada. I am so glad someone else in AZ saw it because we started to wonder if we were losing our minds! I have seen shooting stars before, but this was nothing like it. It was huge! Is it possible this was the same object apparently seen all over the world?

  50. jmcboots says

    My guess is there must have been some “new” remnants from the leonid shower that have migrated into the path of the earth. The various meteor showers we see throughout the year are clouds of junk that the earths orbit travels through. The leonids, which were supposed to have peaked on the 17th of November, are remnants of the comet Temple-Tuttle. My completely uneducated guess is that the cloud has shifted some and the planet has run through some much more substantial particles (aka chunks!) than usual!

  51. SarahJoy says

    I was also fortunate enough to witness the bright blue falling whatever from the east valley 101 southbound in scottsdale. Amaizing treat after a long week…

  52. Vladamir says

    Once again Mother Russia has risen up to demonstrate its power to the puny west. May our missle strike fear into your capitalist hearts. When Russia flexs the world listens!

    Vodka!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  53. Catrina says

    My husband and I were traveling near Tunica, MS on the evening of Nov. 21. Suddenly over to the left there was a large super bright object traveling down at tremendous speed. My husband thought a helicopter had crashed. We saw no flash nor did we hear anything. He braked – we were both like OMG what was that?? I’ve never seen a meteor but that is my only guess as to what it was.

  54. Dr. Michael Schmidt says

    I saw it in Tennessee, I was not quite sure what I saw until I read about it here

  55. Jason says

    I will admit, I don’t think I was outside and witnessed anything. I simply wanted to comment on the behavior of meteors that manage to penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere.

    Stated earlier, most if not all visible meteors that we see jet across the night sky go by at extremely high velocities. My high, I mean millions of ft. per second. There are small and by small, I mean that they are about the sice of semi-trucks. The one over Canada may very well have been about as large as a large building.

    Since we have very little knowledge about the composition of meteors, we can go on what we do know. Certain metals, gases, and solid liquids are highly combustable when mixed and/or combined together. Thermite, for example, is a mixture of super fine metal particles and can burn slowly and incredibly hot. A meteor can contain any or all of those things and at the speed it was going and the more oxygen feeding the burn, it could have burned up all together or have been “stripped” during entry, split apart, and only light “grapefruit” sized objects remained. The bright intesisty suggest that it was highly volitile and quite obviously, from videos gathered, got brighter as it gained more oxygen closer to ground.

    It is also possible to see an event like that from thousands of miles away. From places like Tennessee, Louisiana, and Arizona, I believe that what was seen was a bright falling object so far away on the curvature of the horizon that there could have been 2 to 3 more seconds until it hit. Remember, the Earth is round. Places like Arizona, New Mexico, Western Texas, Neveda .. It could have been 5-7 more seconds considering the Rocky Mountains.

    I hope we are able to learn more about our solar system and even our galaxy by events like this one, but these events occur more often than people realize. Here’s a fun fact .. “Shooting Stars” occur nearly 4 times a night and about 12 times in a 24 hour period. It’d be nice if we could see them during the day.

  56. Jason says

    This is in addition to another comment by jmcboots who speaks about “junk” debris from the Leonid Shower that the earth drifted into. First of all, we don’t drift into things being that the earth is extremely large and has a high gravitational pull. So strong is this pull that the Moon still graces us most nights. So as opposed to us drifting into things, we actually attract things. Having said that, jmcboots may be correct in assuming that the Leonid remnants had a little bit of straggling debris that we invited into Canada. lol

  57. Atelescopeguy says

    I live outside of Vail, Colorado in a pretty good dark sky area and on Friday the 21 I witnessed the sky flash bright at approx 5:30. It was similar to an Iridium Flash I witnessed a few years ago while at a star party on the Grand Mesa of western Colorado, where the atmosphere light intensity was similar to early morning or late evening for 5-6 seconds. On this last Friday the brightness of the sky went from twilight dark to the brightness of around sunset, which cast shadows, back to dark in about 6-8 seconds. I was inside and happen to be looking out the large windows of my house, allowing me to get a good view of the brightness on the ground and the shadows cast, as well as the overall sky brightness. I did not see any fireball or tail in the direction( south) I was looking. If this was the Canadian event, which I believe it to be, then the boloide/meteor must have been ignited in a higher altitude tajectory, allowing the sky to brighten over such a large area, perhaps even into Arizona, as other observers have noted. It sounds like the LA/ TX/ TN event and the Canadian(Colorado?) event are 2 different objects on different nites.

    Good luck finding the pieces!

  58. Ramona says

    I live in Tucson, AZ and have a wonderful view of the Catalina Mt. range. The evening of Nov. 25th we had all of the blinds open, light dimmed and were watching a movie. It was beautiful to see the meteor, it just disapeared behind the mountain ridge. What a lucky break to be inside and still catch the show. It was breathtaking and better entertainment than the movie.

  59. Ramona says

    Correction, it wasn’t on 11/25, it was last week.

  60. Marleane says

    I live in Vancouver, Canada. Last night (Nov. 25), as well as tonight (Nov. 26) I saw two small bright meteors with long sparkly tails coming down into the ocean. From my window in Kitsilano I see the Burrard Inlet, with the mountains of West Vancouver in the background. I could tell the meteors went into the ocean because the mountain was behind them. There certainly seems to be a great deal of activity in our skies lately.

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