Possible meteor actually a jet trail, says expert

Low-angle sunlight in Yellowknife made plane's contrail appear red, says University of Calgary professor.

Earlier this week, CBC acquired some photos of what appeared to be a fireball or meteor above Yellowknife. 

Mathieu Brouillard took the photos Monday morning at about 10 a.m. He says he and other onlookers watched what appeared to be a fireball make its way along the horizon and fade away. 

"Once I took some pictures then it really got their attention because you were able to see them on the camera how it's not a plane, it's definitely a rock of some sort just engulfed in flames," he said. "A really big, big rock engulfed in flames. Definitely hot."

CBC showed the photos to experts on meteors. 

Alan Hildebrand is an associate professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Calgary and the co-ordinator of Canada's fireball reporting centre.

He says the phenomenon was likely a jet contrail.

"When you have a low-angle sun, what we call twilight, sometimes the ground is dark but a plane is up in the sunlight so it is much brighter than the general sky," he said.

"When the sun is low you get the red light. So instead of the normal white colour we associate with contrails, they look orange or red or yellow." 

Hildebrand says fireballs are usually only visible for five to 10 seconds.

He says Yellowknife could witness several fireballs every year.

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