Streaking fireball, loud blast may have been meteor

(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

Joelle Kovach

, Last Updated: 12:11 AM ET

PETERBOROUGH, Ont. -- Andrew Vreugdenhil was watching Star Wars with his family at about 4:20 p.m. on Sunday when they heard an earth-shattering boom.

“I thought a tree limb fell on our back room,” he said.

When he went outside to check, he only saw his neighbours walking around their yards, too, looking for the source of the noise.

They heard it and others saw it. According to dozens of reports on social media, people across Southern Ontario saw a fireball streaking east across the sky before it apparently exploded or impacted near Peterborough.

Was it a meteor? Tough to say: no experts were calling it one late Sunday.

The American Meteorological Society’s website reported a sighting of a possible meteor over Peterborough on Sunday. By 6 p.m., the society’s website said meteor status was pending.

“Some people said it was a sonic boom - it sounded like that,” said Peter Dawson, an astronomer and professor of physics at Trent University.

He thinks it was “quite likely” a small meteoroid exploding high in the atmosphere.

“Small” in this case means it probably measures anywhere from half-a-metre to a metre, Dawson said, and exploded with the force of 50 tonnes of TNT.

That’s small as compared to the meteor that exploded over Russia in February 2013, he said.

That one blasted out windows and injured 1,000 people in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. It exploded with the force of 500,000 tonnes of TNT, Dawson said.

Meteors are “not uncommon,” he added, but most occur over the ocean, where most people can’t see them. Dawson says only 30% of meteors happen overland.

Rodger Forsyth, president of the Peterborough Astronomical Association, said he was at a national telescope and astronomy show in Hamilton, Ont., when the event occurred.

His wife Louise was home in Ennismore, Ont., when it happened and she heard it loud and clear.

“I thought it sounded like a dump truck’s box coming down without its hydraulics - it was a loud bang,” she said.

It amused her that her husband was away shopping for telescopes when a meteor showed up at home. She says it was kind of wasted on her.

“I’m not even the least bit interested in astronomy.”

 


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