Nfld. & Labrador

Meteor sighting was likely space station trash, says MUN instructor

Stargazers in eastern Newfoundland got a treat Thursday night: clear skies, the faint glow of the Aurora Borealis, and what one instructor suspects was a load of space garbage.

Callers to CBC newsroom say green streak seen over Bell Island, Goobies

The International Space Station on May 23, 2011. Chris Stevenson, an Astronomy instructor at Memorial University, says the object spotted over Newfoundland on Thursday was most likely a trash capsule from the International Space Station. (Paolo Nespoli/ESA/NASA/Getty Images)

Stargazers in eastern Newfoundland got a treat Thursday night: clear skies, the faint glow of the Aurora Borealis, and what one instructor suspects was a load of space garbage.

The American Meteor Society recorded four reports of a suspected "fireball" — a bright meteor — in the sky at around 7 p.m. The object was spotted over Gander, Holyrood, St. John's and Conception Bay South.

Callers to CBC Newfoundland and Labrador also reported they say a bright meteor-like object in the sky — but Chris Stevenson, an Astronomy instructor at Memorial University, said the object was most likely a trash capsule from the International Space Station.

Stevenson said the International Space Station (ISS) made a pass north of Newfoundland at about 6:56 p.m, and a few minutes later, the object was spotted.

The American Meteor Society recorded four reports of a possible fireball sighting from Newfoundland and Labrador on Thursday. (CBC)

But he believes the object was too slow to be a true meteor, and it's appearance just after the ISS is unlikely to be just a coincidence.

"Triangulating the lines of sight leads one to conclude that something relatively slow (certainly slow for a true meteor) ... fell into the Earth's atmosphere just north of the island, from the west," he explained in an email.

Stevenson said the object is likely an ISS trash capsule which burned up in the sky.

"Perhaps not as exciting as a small asteroid "almost-impact", but [in my honest opinion], this is inescapably what was observed," he wrote.

Fireball season

Garry Dymond, a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in St. John's, said his group's sky cameras didn't pick up anything on Thursday night.

Though Thursday's activity might not have been the real deal, he did add that this time of year can be considered "fireball season."

"For some strange reason, this time of the year, we have a lot more fireball activity," he said.

He said Newfoundland usually sees bright meteors about three times a month.

About the Author

Garrett Barry

Journalist

Garrett Barry is a CBC reporter based in Gander.

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