Brilliant Fireball Over Canada Sparks Meteorite Hunt (Video)

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Fireball illuminates eastern Canada's skyline

Fireball illuminates eastern Canada's skyline

Scientists are rushing to the site of a possible meteorite impact in Canada's southwestern Ontario after a bright fireball lit up the skies over that region Tuesday night (March 18).

The basketball-sized fireball was spotted at 10:24 p.m. local time in seven all-sky cameras operated by Western University's Southern Ontario Meteor Network, according to meteor scientist Peter Brown of Canada's Western University in London, Ont. Two other camera systems in Ohio and Pennsylvania operated jointly with NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office also spotted the fireball, he added. This video of the March 18 fireball shows all nine camera views of the meteor flare-up.

Western University scientists suspect the fireball exploded up about 47 miles (75 kilometers) above Port Dover, Ont., and moved west until breaking up around 20 miles (32 km) between Aylmer and St. Thomas, about two hours west of Toronto. [5 Amazing Fireball Videos]

"In this fall, meteorites may be found in a small hole produced by their dropping into soil," university officials advised. "Meteorites are not dangerous, but any recovered meteorites should be placed in a clean plastic bag or container and be handled as little as possible to preserve their scientific information."

Brown and Western University meteorite curator Phil McCausland are expected to hold a press briefing at St. Thomas Municipal Airport to discuss the upcoming meteorite hunt. They will be joined by meteor expert Bill Cooke, who leads NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., Western University officials said.

"Meteorites may best be recognized by their dark and scalloped exterior, and are usually denser than normal rock and will often attract a fridge magnet due to their metal content," officials at Western wrote in a statement today (March 20). The university is based in London, Ont., Canada.

One or more meteorites possibly emerged from the fireball, falling 3 miles (5 km) to the north or northwest of St. Thomas, the researchers said. Western officials said they are seeking anyone who "may have witnessed or recorded this event, seen or heard unusual events at the time, or who may have found possible fragments of the freshly fallen meteorite."

Potential meteorite hunters should ask for permission of land owners before searching on private land, university officials warned.

Editor's note: If you captured a great photo of Tuesday's fireball over Canada, or any other night sky view, and would like to share it with Space.com for a story or gallery please send comments and images to managing editor Tariq Malik at: spacephotos@space.com.

Western University requests that any possible meteorite finds from Tuesday's should be reported to McCausland at 519-661-2111, ext. 88008 or on his cell at 519-694-3323. The university is posting updates about the meteorite hunt on Twitter @mediawesternu and with the hashtag #stthomasmeteor.

Follow Elizabeth Howell @howellspace, or Space.com @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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