Ontario meteoroid was size of large beachball: Expert

Sarah Deeth, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:12 AM ET

PETERBOROUGH, Ont. - Experts believe the meteoroid seen streaking through the sky Sunday was about the size of a large beach ball and with enough energy equal to 50 tons of TNT.

Peter Brown, a professor in the University of Western Ontario’s department of physics and astronomy and part of the meteor physics group, confirmed that the big boom and bright fireball seen in the sky Sunday afternoon was, in fact, a meteoroid.

Brown said the event was caught on several dashboard cameras, and air waves and radar data collected by his team are all on par with meteoroid activity.

Brown believes the meteoroid, coming into the atmosphere at a rate of anywhere from 11 to 73 km per second, first appeared in the sky south of Peterborough.

Following its path, Brown thinks it may have landed somewhere in the Quinte West-Stirling area.

But that’s if it survived.

Graham Wilson, a consulting geologist based in Campbellford, Ont., said it’s possible the meteoroid splintered into dust particles well before it touched Earth’s surface.

Wilson will be involved in the hunt for Sunday’s space rock, but cautioned that he has to first determine if the meteoroid has become a meteorite.

Most people mistake meteors for meteorites, Wilson explained.

A meteor is often referred to as a shooting star. That, Wilson said, is just a speck of dust, often no larger than a pebble, burning up in the sky.

They are small but give off fantastic amounts of energy when they burn up 150 km above Earth’s surface, he said.

A meteoroid is something falling through the atmosphere toward Earth. It becomes a meteorite when it lands and can be the size of a pea to something weighing several tons.

Assuming that something has hit Earth, the meteorite would be a charred-black colour, weigh more than a normal rock and likely have a magnetic pull to it.

The inside of a meteorite looks a lot like grey cement with flecks of shiny metal throughout, Wilson explained.

They aren’t hot. Wilson said the meteoroid’s temperature plummets as it falls. It also slows dramatically, dropping to speeds of about 100 km/h.

Ownership of the meteorite depends on where it lands, Wilson said.

If it’s on Crown land, anyone can claim it. If it’s in a national or provincial park it’ll belong to the federal or provincial government, and if it lands on private property then the owner of that land claims it.

Once a meteorite is found it has to be classified and named. It will also be appraised to determine its worth.

Anyone who believes they may have found pieces of the meteorite can call Wilson at 807-620-5506.

The American Meteor Society pegged the Peterborough fireball as happening at 4:16 p.m. Sunday “with a brightness rivalling the sun.”

The Society estimates the starting point of the meteor to be around the Warkworth area of Northumberland County, ending around the Stirling area of Quinte West.

 


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