[meteorite-list] Fireball Seen in Canada, Michigan

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2007 16:13:21 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <200703122313.l2CNDLl08342_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


'Falling star' frightens Earthlings
Christian Cotroneo
Toronto Star
March 12, 2007

Cynthia Crowther had just lit a cigarette outside her Newmarket home
when the sky suddenly caught fire.

"Oh my God, I think I just saw a plane crash," she declared to her
husband, running inside.

A ball of light, seething white, had careered overhead, spitting out
dazzling debris.

She called police, the government, airport authorities.

Russell Crowther, seeing his wife so frantic, imagined something even worse.

"I thought it was a nuclear warhead," he recalls. "I was just squinting,
waiting for us to evaporate."

At about the same time that Newmarket seemed scheduled for heavenly
demolition, Scott Sweeney was driving home from his parents' house,
along Wisconsin's stretch of Interstate 94. He was heading towards
Milwaukee, along a four-lane highway flanked by fields and trees, when,
"something just caught my eye . . . it was going straight down."

Indeed, the whitish-green fireball seemed to be on such a dramatic
collision course with Earth that from his vantage, the 35-year-old IT
technician imagined two grim scenarios: a mighty cannonball into Lake
Michigan. Or Milwaukee itself was due for a celestial smackdown.

"I honestly waited to see something come up from the ground."

But what actually fell from the sky on Sunday night, visible between 8
and 8:30 p.m. to rapt observers from southern Ontario to Milwaukee,
Wis., was likely a rock, no bigger than a fist and weighing about a

"Everything I have heard suggests that it was a bolide - a meteorite
that was flaming though our atmosphere," explained Paul Delaney, a
physics and astronomy professor at York University. "It probably came to
ground somewhere. But where, nobody knows."

It is certain, however, that for three of four spine-tingling seconds,
people from a massive swathe of the continent shared the same slice of
burning sky. And everyone imagined that whatever it was had landed in
their own backyard.

"That is not at all unusual for a really bright bolide," Delaney
observed. "They have huge distances over which they can travel and,
therefore, be seen. Especially if it's in the twilight or darkness hours.

"For all you know, it's up10 kilometres. That means its travel distance
can be huge."

50 km? 500 km?

"It could be 5,000 km, mate."

But a hurtling meteoroid glows white hot as it rushes through the
earth's atmosphere and, like waving a red hot stick around at a
campfire, it leaves a brief but extremely bright trail. "So it doesn't
have to be very big to be seemingly really bright," Delaney said.

NORAD certainly didn't flinch.

Charged with monitoring the skies across the continent, the North
American Aerospace Defense Command uses a battery of radar, satellites
and aircraft to cast its net.

"We're pretty vigilant in terms of monitoring the skies," said Major
Jason Proulx, a NORAD public affairs officer. "But what we do is we
assess whether it poses a risk or a threat. If it doesn't pose a threat,
it's not something we wouldn't express further interest in."

It was dramatic enough for television stations in Wisconsin to take a
break from unsolved cow murders and assure residents that it was not a UFO.

Closer to home, a radio report suggested the flaming fury landed in
Nobleton, although the local fire department found no debris. And police
switchboards in Toronto, York and Durham Regions reported receiving
several calls from people who observed the fireball.

If anyone does manage to find this heavenly visitor, the earthly rewards
could be substantial. Museums, such as the Royal Ontario Museum, could
pay as much as $3,000 for a meteoroid of that size, Delaney estimated.

"There will be a flood of, `Oh, it's mine.' Because these things are
worth a lot of money. Meteorites are big business."

After all, imagine how much we can learn from a bolt that falls from the
heavenly machinery.

"These are wonderful laboratories," Delaney says. "It's a piece of space.

"Some of the rocks that come to ground are literally leftover pieces
from the solar system's formation. All of a sudden, we step back in time
four and a half billion years ago, to the way the solar system was at
that moment in time.

"That gives us a real good base point to tell us about what was the
material composition of our region of space when our solar system formed."

Could this rare hint from the heavens be stuck in some Uxbridge heifer's

"Of course, if it hit that cow, the cow is going to be lying there
dead," Delaney notes. "So the farmer will be a little ticked."

In fact, Delaney knows of only two reported personal impacts over the
last 400 to 500 years. None in Canada. Of the thousands of meteorites
raining on earth every year, most plunk into the oceans covering most of
the globe.

Ambitious meteorite hunters may want to head to Antarctica, where humans
are sparse and meteorites are relatively easy to find.

"The stuff hits the ice, the ice melts and then they just sit there on
the ground, waiting for us to go pick them up," Delaney says.

Closer to Toronto, on the other hand, a meteorite would look like just
about any other rock.

Hence, a farmer ploughs over it. Or a road is built. Bye-bye mystery of
the universe.

"Unless somebody saw it hit," Delaney says. "The chances of us findingit
are really slim, unfortunately."


Sighting triggers calls
mlive.com (Michigan)
March 12, 2007

WEST MICHIGAN -- A meteor streaking across the night sky on Sunday
prompted numerous calls to police dispatchers in several counties.
"It was probably really bright, if it drew that much attention," said
Dave DeBruyn, director of Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium in Grand Rapids.
He said a meteor is the best explanation for the fiery streak many
people reported at 8 p.m. Meteor-sightings happen occasionally, he said,
and involve a rock typically rich in iron and nickel that disintegrates
in the atmosphere as it falls. "It's kind of like a giant sparkler," he
Received on Mon 12 Mar 2007 07:13:21 PM PDT

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