Nfld. & Labrador

Bright object in sky near St. John's likely a meteor, says local astronomer

Dozens took to social media to speculate on what they had just seen falling from the sky before disappearing over Southside Hills near St. John's harbour, with theories ranging from landing alien spaceships to foreign missile launches.

Garry Dymond of the Royal Astronomical Society says it's unlikely object made impact with ground

A security camera on the waterfront in St. John's captured this shot Monday night of a light falling from the sky near the South Side Hills, across the harbour. (Submitted)

A local amateur astronomer says a bright object seen falling from the sky near St. John's was likely a meteor.

It was a shooting star, which we would call a fireball because it was brighter than Venus.- Garry Dymond

Video shared with CBC shows a bright light falling before disappearing in the Southside hills area near St. John's harbour. Police say several people also called and reported seeing the object.

Dozens took to social media to speculate on what they had just seen, with theories ranging from landing alien spaceships to foreign missile launches.

However, Garry Dymond of the local branch of the Royal Astronomical Society said all evidence points to the object being a meteor.

"It was a shooting star, which we would call a fireball because it was brighter than Venus," he told the St. John's Morning Show on Tuesday.

"On an average night you'll get to see two shooting stars an hour. This one was much brighter and it exploded, which is what caught people's eye I think."

Videos taken of an object seen falling through the sky near St. John's, which a local astronomer says is likely a meteor 0:17

Dymond was setting up his telescope to observe the Orionid meteor shower when he noticed the exploding light over St. John's, moving west.

He said it's rare to see a fireball that bright near the city, but with activity from Orionid expected to continue through late November, it's likely it was part of that meteor shower.

When a meteor lands on the earth, the object is called a meteorite. However, Dymond doesn't believe the object from Monday night made contact with the ground.

A meteorite from the asteroid known as Vesta, which is one of the largest asteroids in our solar system, is on display in the Royal Ontario Museum. (Royal Ontario Museum/All rights reserved)

Dymond said they also listen for the sound of impact to determine whether the rock collided with the ground or if it burned up in the atmosphere.

"It didn't seem from my angle to go down, so I would assume it didn't produce a meteorite," he said. "No sound was heard, so that's another thing. Usually if you get a meteorite, and it falls near you, you'll hear a sound."

The video acquired by CBC shows a flash of light as the object disappears from the sky, which Dymond suspects will result in some people searching the Southside Hills to look for a left over space rock.

Despite his doubts, anyone who does find a meteorite, which would be as much as 4.6 billion years old, should report it immediately to the American Meteor Society.

"If it did produce a meteorite, it would be the first meteorite found in Newfoundland," he said.

With files from St. John's Morning Show