Fireball That Exploded Over Canada Probably Dropped Meteorites, Scientists Say

A bright fireball that appeared in the night sky around Canada's Lake Ontario on Wednesday probably dropped meteorites, scientists believe.

The meteor, which NASA estimates was about a foot wide and weighed 50 pounds, was moving at around 55,000 miles per hour before it burned up in Earth's atmosphere—producing a flash of light that was captured by cameras across southern Ontario and Quebec.

It traveled about 80 miles through our upper atmosphere, slowing to a speed of roughly 17,000 miles before it broke apart 16 miles above Little Anstruther Lake—near the town of Apsley, NASA said.

"This fireball likely dropped a small number of meteorites in the Bancroft area, specifically near the small town of Cardiff," Peter Brown, an astronomy professor at Canada's Western University, said in a statement. "We suspect meteorites made it to the ground because the fireball ended very low in the atmosphere just to the west of Bancroft and slowed down significantly. This is a good indicator that material survived."

Brown said the fireball was captured by 10 cameras from Western's Southern Ontario Meteor Network. It produced several bright flares towards the end of its flight and almost outshone the Moon. Scientists estimate the meteorites it dropped are probably small—just tens to hundreds of grams.

Brown said he and his team are hoping to recover some of the fragments. These pieces, which are recognizable as they are dark and denser than normal rocks, can provide key information about our solar system, including how it formed and evolved.

Meteoroids—the name for a meteorite before it hits Earth's atmosphere—are remnants from the formation of the solar system. Unlike Earth, which has changed drastically since it formed over 4.5 billion years ago, meteoroids are unchanged—making them a sort of time capsule to the past. Studying meteorites that have fallen to Earth allows scientists to look at the chemical composition of the solar system at its point of creation.

Brown is hoping to get in touch with people from the area where the meteorites probably fell to find out what they saw and heard, as well as potentially finding these fallen space rocks.

Earth is hit by about 100 tons of dust and sand-sized particles from space every day. According to former Cornell University astronomer Lynn Carter, this amounts to between 18,000 and 84,000 rocks bigger than 10 grams hitting Earth every year. Meteoroids smaller than 82 feet normally burn up as they hit our atmosphere, producing fireballs in the process.

fireball canada
The fireball seen over Canada. Western University