A stunning series of videos from seven all-sky cameras in the The University of Western’s Southern Ontario Meteor Network (SOMN) captured the same fireball generated by a meteor entering the atmosphere pre-dawn on the morning of September 15th. Whilst meteors aren’t uncommon (if you hang around outside for long enough you might see one or two “shooting stars” yourself), this fireball was very bright and had a surprisingly slow velocity. What’s more, astronomers think that the extraterrestrial object came from a typical Earth-crossing orbit, possibly indicating this was another small near-Earth asteroid. In fact, meteorite hunters believe that it may have slowed significantly when passing through the atmosphere, dropping fragments to the ground. A great catch by the Canadian team, let’s get searching!
It must be the season for tracking near-Earth asteroids. No sooner had the first predicted impact of an asteroid happen on October 7th, another small object was lining itself up for a terrestrial strike. On October 15th, rather than predicting the impact of an asteroid, an array of all-sky cameras (cameras that, quite literally, observe the whole sky above them, all 360° of it) videoed the fireball event of a particularly interesting object.
The Physics and Astronomy Dept. at Western university maintains these all-sky cameras in southern Ontario for the sole purpose of spotting and tracking meteor events. And on Wednesday, October 15th at 5:28 am the Ontario skies lit up with the motion of an eerie slow-moving, bright object.
“This event was a relatively slow fireball that made it far into the Earth’s atmosphere. Most meteoroids burn up by the time they hit an altitude of 60 or 70 kilometres from the ground,” said Phil McCausland, Associate Professor at Western’s Physics and Astronomy Department.
“This one was tracked by our all-sky camera network to have penetrated to an altitude of about 37 kilometres and it slowed down considerably, so there is a possibility that at least one and possibly several small meteorites made it to the ground.” McCausland is heading to a region north of Guelph, in Ontario, in the hope of finding fragments of the fireball that may have fallen off as meteorites.
See what it looks like to observe a meteor fireball approaching head-on! (.avi – Tavistock video)
See the Ontario fireball streak overhead (.avi – Collingwood video)
Researchers working with McCausland have calculated that this object originated from a common Earth-crossing asteroid orbit, so it could have been the Solar System taking another pot-shot at us.
Does this mean the score just changed? I make it: Asteroids (2) : Earth (2)