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Scientists find space rock that streaked through skies of Western Canada

Scientists find space rock that streaked through skies of Western Canada
November 28, 2008 - 11:32

LLOYDMINSTER, Alta. - University of Calgary scientists have found the remains of a 10-tonne asteroid that exploded in the skies over the Prairie provinces earlier this month.

Dr. Alan Hildebrand and graduate student Ellen Milley found several fragments near the Battle River along the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary and are searching for more.

The university estimated Friday that there could be thousands of meteorite pieces strewn over 20-square-kilometre area.

People in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta have been buzzing about the huge fireball that lit up the night sky over the three provinces Nov. 20. Witnesses reported hearing sonic boom rumblings and said the fiery flash was as bright as the sun.

Hildebrand, a co-ordinator of the Canadian Fireball Reporting Centre with the Canadian Space Agency, estimated that the meteor could have been seen as far as 700 kilometres away, into the northern United States.

It contained about one-tenth of a kiloton of energy when it entered the earth's atmosphere on Nov. 20, roughly the equivalent of 100 tons of the chemical explosive TNT.

"It would be something like a billion-watt light bulb," he said.

Besides sonic boom sounds, witnesses also reported hearing hissing or crackling noises like frying bacon.
Fireballs can act as radio transmitters, Hildebrand said, causing odd sounds.

The largest meteorite shower in Canada occurred northeast of Edmonton near the town of Bruderheim in 1960. More than 700 fragments were recovered, and together they weighed a total of 300 kilograms.

This latest meteor has captured the imagination of sky watchers around the world.

Robert Haag, a space rock collector from Arizona, has offered up to $12,000 for the first one-kilogram chunk of the meteor that is found.

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