Meteor seemed really close, many western Canadians report

From Edmonton to Edgeley, Sask., and points in between, people reported that Thursday night's brillant fireball seemed mighty close.

From Edmonton to Edgeley, Sask., and points in between, people reported that the brilliant fireball streaking across western Canadian skies on Thursday seemed mighty close.

Hundreds flooded phone lines at police stations and media outlets with accounts of a multicoloured meteor.

No meteorite fragments have been found yet, but some of the witnesses who said they saw something fall are likely right, said Dr. Christopher Herd, a University of Alberta earth and atmospheric sciences professor.

Herd was getting reports of the meteor touching down in all parts of Alberta.

"It's a massive fireball; it's one of the brightest that we've seen in the area. And it almost certainly dropped meteorites, it looks somewhere around the Alberta-Saskatchewan border," he said.

Scientists who are interested in finding meteorite fragments may have a number of sites to choose from. 

"It was a pretty good-size rock that came in, and these rocks tend to fragment into pieces," Herd said.

"If anything makes it to the ground, there'll be probably a number of pieces spread over an area of a few kilometres across, so that's basically what we're looking for now."

Some said they saw a red fireball, others said it was green, white or blue.

For many, regardless of where they lived, one point of agreement was that the fireball seemed to be really, really close.

Sherwin Petersen was driving east of Regina on Highway 35 when he saw it.

"To the west of me, I saw a bright orange light.… It looked like something you saw in a war movie, where an airplane is shot out of the sky," he said. "To me, it looked like it hit the ground."

'We saw the huge fireball and tail and pieces breaking off.'— Miles Bennett

Hundreds of kilometres to the west, Miles Bennett was heading towards Kindersley, Sask., when the fireball went by.

"It appeared to us that the meteor was only was a few miles north of Brock, Sask.," Bennett said in an e-mail to CBC News. "Probably much further, but we saw the huge fireball and tail and pieces breaking off. Looked very close to the ground when we saw it."

Some scientists were discounting some reports of how close the meteor appeared, however.

Martin Beech, a meteor expert at the University of Regina, the fireball would have been at an altitude of 30 to 60 kilometres when most people saw it.

Some people in the Lloydminster area reported hearing the meteor go by, and in those cases, it indeed might have been close, he said.

For others, it might have been more of an optical illusion, due to the curvature of the Earth, Beech said.

A fire in a farmer's field near Edgeley, Sask., on Thursday night caused a stir when some people speculated it had been caused by falling meteor bits.

However, Cathy Wheaton, who snapped pictures of the fire, told CBC News that despite what people were saying, there was no crater and it appeared to be nothing more than someone burning debris.