Calgary·Video

If you caught video of a 'giant fireball' blazing through the sky, these meteor detectives want your help

Researchers at the University of Calgary are asking the public to share any images or video captured as a fiery meteor flew through Alberta skies last Wednesday in the hopes they can track down its landing site.

Debris likely fell in Foothills west of Red Deer, research assistant says

Landmarks in meteorite footage can be used by researchers to triangulate the location of a fallen meteorite. 0:50

Researchers at the University of Calgary are asking the public to share any images or video captured as a fiery meteor flew through Alberta skies last Wednesday in the hopes they can track down its landing site.

One video of the fireball — taken at Sunshine Village in Banff National Park at 12:16 a.m. on Wednesday — shows the blast of light change from white to a bright orange before it disappears over the Rocky Mountains. 

  • Watch the meteor fall from multiple perspectives in the video above.

Lincoln Hanton, a research assistant with the department of geoscience at the U of C, told CBC News that when footage of a meteor surfaces on the news or the internet, researchers will use landmarks from the images to calculate where it fell.

Supplied by Rob Breugom 0:22

"We'll take measurements to the fireball off of a reference object — so in some cases, you might have the corner of a building in your photo, or a mountain peak, or stars. That really helps us to constrain exactly where the fireball fell," Hanton said.

The U of C research team is supervised by planetary scientist and professor Alan Hildebrand. 

They got especially lucky with this fireball, Hanton said, because photographers attempting to capture the northern lights caught the meteor instead.

Wonder what a meteorite looks like when it hits the ground? Lincoln Hanton holds up a sample from a meteorite that fell near Kootenay Lake in 2017. He says the sample pictured here is four grams, and the largest the researchers have ever recovered. (Supplied by Lincoln Hanton)

What the researchers know so far is that the meteorite fell near the Foothills west of Red Deer.

They will attempt to recover it quickly because meteorite samples can be eroded by weather, Hanton said, and estimate it was a few hundred kilograms in size when it hit the atmosphere. 

Hanton said they don't yet know where the meteor came from, but says they should be able to tell with more analysis.

Not Sunshine's first meteor sighting

The research team initially saw the video captured at Sunshine Village on Twitter, and reached out to get a copy.

Kendra Scurfield, director of brand and communications at Sunshine Village, said the ski resort has had web cameras for years, but they are always upgrading so they can have better video resolution and catch moments like this.

"The sky's the limit for picking out the device if we can catch those guys off of it," she says. 

This webcam footage captured by Sunshine Village is helping the researchers triangulate the meteor's location. Supplied by Sunshine Village. 0:36

She was exceptionally excited when she saw the video.

"It's just a giant fireball flying through the sky. It's pretty extraordinary to see something like that."

Sunshine's cameras recorded another meteor in 2017, which was also sent for the University of Calgary to pinpoint where it landed.

Supplied by John Bright 0:17

"I think we're so blessed to live in a world as beautiful as ours here in the Canadian Rockies, and there's so much we don't know about our world," she said.

"So when you can capture items from space, it just gives us a little more information to fully understand our  natural environment."

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