Technology & Science

Daytime fireball thrills witnesses from Ontario to Virginia

A noon-time boom that was heard and felt from southern Ontario to Virginia on Wednesday was likely caused by a disintegrating meteor, according to an organization in western New York that keeps track of such phenomena.

Thought to be meteor that likely blew to bits near Syracuse, N.Y.

A satellite image from NASA's Geostationary Lightning Mapper shows the daytime fireball that was visible Wednesday across southern Ontario and New York. (NASA)

A noon-time boom that was heard and felt from southern Ontario to Virginia on Wednesday was likely caused by a disintegrating meteor, according to an organization in western New York that keeps track of such phenomena.

Witnesses across the area reported hearing the boom or seeing a fireball in the sky shortly after noon on Wednesday, said Robert Lunsford of the American Meteor Society in Geneseo, N.Y. By 5 p.m., the organization had recorded 90 reports of the fireball seen in Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ontario, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Police agencies and fire departments around central New York received 911 calls reporting a boom that shook windows, but clouds prevented sightings in much of the area. Since most reports of the boom were around Syracuse, that's likely where the meteor blew to bits, Lunsford said.

On the society's website, an observer in western New York reported the fireball was bright white with shades of yellow. An observer in Hagerstown, Md., reported a fireball with red and orange sparks, smoke and a persistent train. A report from Welland, Ont., described a long, bright-green train.

An image from Western University's observatory security camera shows the daytime meteor that was visible across southern Ontario. (Peter Brown/Western University)

"Sunny day, so it looked like a gold metallic flash against the blue sky," said a report from Winchester, Va.

"Astonishing, amazing, still get goosebumps talking about it," wrote an observer in Port Dover, Ont. "The train was flaming white, wide and long, no smoke."

"We tend to notice fireballs more at night because they stand out better, but it's not terribly unusual for very bright ones to be noticed during the day. It happens several times a year over populated areas," said Margaret Campbell-Brown, a member of the Meteor Physics Group at Western University in London, Ont., via email.

All fireballs, which are bright meteors, produce sound waves that are sometimes detectable only by sensitive microphones, Campbell-Brown said.

A large one may produce a thunder-like sonic boom with possible extra bangs from fragmentation, she said.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now