Some western Manitobans had lucky chance to spot 'once in a lifetime' meteor, astronomer says
Sightings reported in Brandon, The Pas, Saskatchewan and North Dakota
The few people living in Manitoba's Westman area and parts of Saskatchewan who spotted a meteor on Tuesday night should count themselves "extremely lucky," a local astronomer says.
Globally, meteors are spotted a few times a day, but the average person may only ever see one throughout the course of their life, said Scott Young, who is the planetarium astronomer at the Manitoba Museum.
"A fireball this big and bright is exceptionally rare for a person to see," he said in an interview on CBC Manitoba's Radio Noon on Wednesday.
"If you're a devoted sky watcher and you spend your whole life, you might be lucky to see two. But I mean, it really is a once-in-a-lifetime event."
In Brandon, Man., Trevor Bryant's doorbell camera caught the meteor as it passed across the sky in mere seconds.
LISTEN | Scott Young talks about the rare sighting of the meteor:
Young calls it "a beautiful fireball arching across the sky."
"It was visible for six or seven seconds and it sort of flared up a couple of times, broke into some pieces, had a nice long tail behind it. It was a really spectacular video," he added.
That video was posted online, and ever since, Young has been getting dozens of sighting reports, as has the International Meteor Organization.
Bryant, a local astronomer and member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, said he didn't see the fireball first hand, but heard buzz on social media, prompting him to check his camera.
His camera is pointed skyward to film lighting, rockets and other things. He wasn't expecting to capture the meteor.
"Lo and behold, I got it," he said on CBC Manitoba's Up to Speed on Wednesday.
People reported sightings from as far north as The Pas, but also in locations in southern Saskatchewan and North Dakota.
"Everybody says, 'Oh, it was just over those trees', or, 'It was just over in the neighbour's yard,' but in actual fact, it's often quite far away," Young said.
"By collecting all these sightings from different directions and different locations, you can actually figure out where this object was in the sky and draw it on the map."
The International Meteor Organization has tracked the path of the fireball, and it's estimated to have come down northeast of Regina near Humboldt, Young said.
A lucky person might even pick up some meteor debris.
Young suggests looking for very dark rock that's quite heavy for its size.
"It also usually has a very smooth outer skin, not polished necessarily, but there are these little sort of thumb-shaped depressions, almost like you took Play-Doh and stuck your thumb in it a bunch of times," he said.
Most people who think they find debris actually pick up another kind of rock, he said.
"If you think you found a meteorite, the odds are it's actually a meteor-wrong. It's one of those earth rocks that sort of is hard to tell apart. So you really need to have someone that that can analyze it in detail to really confirm what you've found."
With files from Margaux Watt and Jim Agapito