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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2004 > Mar > Mar 24

Astronomers Ecstatic Over Space Visitor

From: Frank Warren <frank-warren.nul>
Date: Tue, 23 Mar 2004 08:03:55 -0800
Fwd Date: Wed, 24 Mar 2004 09:44:03 -0500
Subject: Astronomers Ecstatic Over Space Visitor

Source: The Calgary Herald


March 23, 2004

Fireball streaks across Prairies
Astronomers ecstatic over space visitor

Barb Pacholik and Sherri Zickefoose
CanWest News Service and Calgary Herald

A Calgary amateur astronomer's nightly routine of taping the
city skyline paid off by capturing a glimpse of a spectacular
fireball that blazed across Prairie skies.

"So far, I'm the only one I know who's got it," said Don
Hladiuk, a geologist and member of the Royal Astronomy Society
of Canada.

"So far, I'm the only one I know who's got it," said Don
Hladiuk, a geologist and member of the Royal Astronomy Society
of Canada.

Hladiuk mans the University of Calgary's automatic sky search
camera, and the fish-eye lens caught the streak of light and two
bright flashes at 7:33 p.m., Sunday night, according to the
camera's timer.

"It's really exciting. In the end, you hope to discover new

The fireball that lit up the night sky over Alberta,
Saskatchewan and Manitoba has stoked excitement among
astronomers musing about the rare possibility of a significant
meteorite discovery.

Determining the exact path of the fireball, which University of
Calgary geologist Alan Hildebrand estimates to have been the
size of a kitchen sink while sailing over the city, is proving
to be a challenge.

"We wish it was 10 tonnes instead of 100 kilograms," said
Hildebrand, who is the co-ordinator of the Canadian Fireball
Reporting Centre.

Although the sky was cloudy on Sunday night, the burst of light
was visible to Calgarian Rachel Crook as she headed north on
Crowchild Trail.

"There was a great, huge bright-orange flash to the east," she

"It was amazing."

"It totally took me by surprise. My first thought was something
exploded. I was looking for smoke, like it was a helicopter."

On Monday, Martin Beech, a Regina astronomer who sits on a
national meteorite committee, was busy sifting through reported

"It's potentially very exciting," said Beech, who teaches at the
University of Regina's Campion College.

"Without a doubt, a very bright fireball was seen," he said,
adding all signs are pointing to a meteor -- burning fragments
of asteroids from the region between Mars and Jupiter.

Because it was so widely visible and some witnesses heard a
sonic boom or smelled sulphur, the possibility of a meteorite --
 when pieces of a meteor actually reach Earth -- are increased,
he added.

"There's a very good chance meteorites did come to ground from
what I've heard so far."

If a meteorite hit Saskatchewan and could be located, it would
be the first "meteorite fall" -- a fireball sighting combined
with finding material on the ground -- that's been recorded in
the province, said Beech, a member of the Meteorites and Impacts
Advisory Committee to the Canadian Space Agency.

The fireball was not a satellite, part of a rocket or other
manmade space debris, confirmed Capt. Dave Muralt of 17 Wing at
CFB Moose Jaw, Sask. He checked Monday with Norad in Colorado,
which tracks orbiting material returning to Earth.

Chris Rutkowski, an unidentified flying object expert in
Winnipeg, said "a good chunk of Canada saw this thing."

He said there were reports Sunday of sightings from Edmonton to
Ottawa and into North Dakota.

Because so many people saw the fireball, chances are it was very
high up, said Rutkowski, who was speaking on behalf of Ufology
Research of Manitoba.

Despite the dramatic display, the show lasted only about four
seconds. But Ronalda and Ben Kleinsasser, who live on a farm
near Kerrobert, Sask., won't forget what they saw.

"I was watching TV when I saw this ball of fire dropping out of
the sky with a tail of flames," said Ben Kleinsasser. "I watched
it coming down until there it was, right in front of us.

"My hair went up on end and I had goose bumps. It was wild. And
it rumbled the floor pretty good because my daughter came
running upstairs asking if someone fell in the house."

Family members scoured the area for any sign of impact or

"I figured for sure it hit one of our barns or bins. That's how
close it seemed."

If anyone along the meteor's path finds an odd rock, there are
tell-tale characteristics to look for, such as a shiny jet-black
surface and magnetic properties, Beech said.


Here is some information about meteors:

- What are they: Bits of comet debris. Scientists think comets
formed some 4.6 billion years ago when the sun condensed out of
a cloud of hydrogen, helium and some dust and the solar system
was born.

- Meteor: When the meteoroid, or comet debris, enters the
Earth's atmosphere, the light phenomenon is called a meteor.

- Meteorite: A meteoroid that survives passage through the
atmosphere and hits the ground.

- Speedball:Just before they enter the Earth's atmosphere,
meteoroids travel at 71 km/second, or some 2,663 times as fast
as a fast pitch in baseball, or the same as going around the
Earth in 3.8 minutes.

- Light show: The colour of a meteor is an indication of its
composition and the excitation temperature: sodium atoms give an
orange-yellow light, iron atoms a yellow light, magnesium a
blue-green light, calcium atoms may add a violet hue, while
silicon atoms and molecules of atmospheric nitrogen give a red

- How old: If parts of a meteorite are found, its age can be
determined by testing its level of radioactivity.

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