It's now confirmed: the loud boom and flash of light many people spotted Tuesday evening from Montreal as far west as Ottawa was a meteor entering the earth's atmosphere.
Researchers at the University of Western Ontario said the rock from space passed over Montreal at around 8 p.m. from north to south.
They were able to confirm the phenomenon by sounds from shock waves picked up by acoustic ground sensors around Montreal and upper New York state.
NASA's Meteor Environment Office had been searching for footage of a meteor captured by its cameras, but cameras were obscured by thick clouds.
Geologist Richard Herd, a retired curator of the National Meteorite Collection for the federal government, said all indications suggested it was a meteoroid. That's a rock from space that passes through the Earth's atmosphere.
"It came in very rapidly...and so that's indicative. There was some ballistic shock from this thing, which is typical even of a small object," Herd said.
Despite the loud noise it generated, researchers say the meteoroid was probably no bigger than a basketball.
So far, no one has reported finding any fragments of it on the ground.
Why does a meteor make a sonic boom?
- After orbiting the sun for billions of years, meteors will sometimes pass close enough to the Earth to enter its atmosphere.
- The friction from the atmosphere will immediately start to burn the meteor at a temperature of thousands of degrees.
- As it passes through the atmosphere, the meteor travels faster than the speed of sound, and that's what creates the sonic boom we hear below.
Source: Robert Rutledge, McGill University physics professor
Loud bang scared residents
Natasha Raynor, who lives in Pincourt on Montreal's West Island, told CBC's Daybreak that she heard the boom Tuesday night while playing outside with her son.
Raynor said the flash came from high in the sky, followed by a boom that was louder than thunder.
"I had just brought my son out in the snow ... I saw a big flash, a blue flash," Raynor said.
"I thought that it was a transformer that blew and then I heard the boom ... I didn't realize how scary it was until my son jumped into my arms."
Quebec provincial police said they received several calls about the incident, and had no reports of explosions or fires.