Starlight, shining star… Lake Simcoe residents may have seen parts of a shooting star falling from the sky Sunday night.
Western University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy maintains a network of panoramic cameras that scan the sky for meteors.
On Sunday, the camera observed a bright fireball in southern Ontario at 11:37 p.m.
Researchers say video data suggests that fragments of the meteor are likely to have reached the ground near the eastern shore of Lake Simcoe, just north of the town of Argyle.
A fireball filmed above the sky in Chatham, Ontario.
Denis Vida, who specializes in studying meteors, confirmed that more than a dozen all-sky cameras from Western’s Southern Ontario Meteor Network captured the event north of Toronto on Sunday evening, as did a number of cameras operated by citizen scientists of the Global Meteor Network.
“This fireball was particularly significant because it was slow moving, was in an asteroidal orbit, and ended very low in the atmosphere. These are all good indicators that the material survived,” Vida says.
Vida also notes that pieces of the meteorite likely survived because the fireball was still producing light just 29 kilometers up. It also had a steep entry angle, about 30 degrees from vertical.
With those two factors, she said it’s likely that many small meteorites made it to the ground.
The starry event is also good for Western’s meteor research group, which was able to obtain good quality video data which they will use to calculate the origin of the rock in our solar system.
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Preliminary data from the video shows the fireball was first visible at an altitude of 90 km and traveled nearly due north, researchers said.
“The initial mass is thought to be around 10 kilograms, and we would expect tens to hundreds of grams of material on the floor,” Vida says.
“Meteorites are of great interest to researchers because studying them helps us understand the formation and evolution of the solar system.”
Those planning to go galactic rock hunting will want to keep a few things in mind, especially with the ownership rules regarding finding the space rock.
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Before people go looking for Lake Simcoe, people should keep in mind that in Canada, meteorites belong to the owner of the land on which they are found. If individuals plan to carry out research, they must always obtain permission from the landowner before venturing onto private land.
Meteorites are also commonly recognized by their dark, often scalloped exterior.
The researchers also say that the rocks are generally denser than “normal” rocks and will often be attracted to a magnet due to their metal content.
Unlike superhero movies, researchers say space junk isn’t dangerous, but if recovered, it’s best to place it in a clean plastic bag or wrap it in aluminum foil, suggest the experts.
They should also be handled as little as possible to help preserve their scientific value.
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