Bright daytime meteor probably landed near Medicine Hat, experts say

Research assistant Lincoln Hanton (L) and Fabio CIceri. PhD student in Planetary Science and teaching assistant, pose with a meteorite sample at their University of Calgary offices on {ipcdow}, February 12, 2020. The sample is from the Buzzard Coulee Meteorite found in Saskatchewan in 2008. Reasearchers are investating the recent fireball over Calgary. Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia

Fireball experts say the meteor that lit up Alberta skies Saturday afternoon likely touched down somewhere north of Medicine Hat.

Meteor researchers at the University of Calgary determined the object’s probable flight path by analyzing online video footage of the fireball, which was clearly visible in eastern skies around 5:08 p.m. Saturday despite it still being bright outside.

“The most unusual thing about this meteor is that it was seen in the daylight. This suggests to us that the fireball was probably relatively big,” said Fabio Ciceri, a PhD student in planetary science who is part of the team investigating the meteor.

“It was probably the size of a microwave when entering the atmosphere, and probably between 100 and 500 kilograms, but we can never be 100 per cent sure.”

Based on footage he’s seen, Ciceri says any meteorites that fell to Earth could be a rare type called carbonaceous chondrites, which account for only about two per cent of all recovered rocks. That potential makes the fireball even more exciting for the U of C team.

“It would be so great to be able to find one of those, because we don’t have many at the university,” Ciceri said.

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The meteor was seen across the province, with reports in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge. The International Meteor Organization, which tracks fireballs by soliciting reports from amateur astronomers, received 42 reports of the meteor.

Specialty cameras are set up across the province to help scientists calculate the trajectory of meteors and increase chances of finding space rocks that have fallen to Earth. But since Saturday’s meteor occurred in daylight, the cameras either were not active or didn’t capture the fireball.

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Though having those specially calibrated cameras is a big help in locating possible meteorites, scientists are still able to triangulate flight paths and possible landing areas using video footage of the meteor.

Ciceri asks that those with footage of the meteor, particularly video recorded in southeast Alberta or Saskatchewan, contact him at

“If we get enough video from the public, it could give us a really good idea of the trajectory,” he said. “Since it was over Calgary, we think there’s much more video than what we’ve seen. Most people who have a security camera, if it was pointed east, would have caught the fireball.”

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If scientists are able to narrow down a landing area for the meteorite, they would then start search efforts, using metal detectors and looking for entry holes in the snow to look for pieces of space rock.

Finding meteorites quickly is imperative for scientists, says Chris Herd, a University of Alberta geologist who is among the province’s top meteorites experts.

“The longer time it spends on the Earth’s surface, the more time that things like moisture, especially melting snow, can get into it and modify it,” Herd said. “There’s definitely going to be some luck involved with finding it.”

Twitter: @jasonfherring

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