Meteorite may have landed along Kootenay Lake

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  • May. 18, 2011 10:00 a.m.

A meteor that looked as big as the moon swooped over Cranbrook early Saturday. This photo shows the view through the College of the Rockies meteor camera. The image is taken through a fish-eye lens with the horizon shown as a rim around the edge of the circle.

A meteorite that flew over the Kootenays on Saturday morning was seen in Nelson and caught on video by a camera on the roof of the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook.

It lit up the night sky at 2:17 a.m., according to physics lab technician Rick Nowell.

“Appearing as a dim dot at first, high to the north, it rapidly grew into a big, white ball as big as the moon, with a tail behind it,” he says.

“It flared into brilliance, lighting up the whole sky and layers of white clouds to the south-western horizon. Within four seconds the flare sank as it moved a bit south of west, sinking down into the clouds, towards the setting moon and Creston.”

A dull rumble of thunder followed.

The fireball was seen as far east as Cochrane, Alberta; south as Coeur d’Alene and Spokane; and west in Nelson, Kamloops and Penticton.

Most witnesses described a greenish blue orb that looked as big as the moon. It lit up the sky as bright as day, and one person even said the automatic street lights switched off for a few minutes as they registered the light.

Witnesses in Cranbrook and Nelson heard a distant boom, like a far-off thunderstorm, after the meteor sank over the horizon — an indication the meteor broke apart and fell to the ground somewhere between the two cities, according to Dr. Alan Hildebrand, head of the Canadian Fireball Reporting Centre at the University of Calgary.

From the angle of the meteor’s flight path, Hildebrand estimates meteor fragments may have landed somewhere north of Creston along Kootenay Lake.

However, the landscape between Creston and Nelson could easily hide meteorites, Hildebrand said. “The general area has a lot of tough ground to search … spectacular scenery generally equals tough meteorite searching.”

You can view a nine-second clip on the Cranbrook Daily Townsman’s Facebook page.

With files from Sally MacDonald, Cranbrook Daily Townsman

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