A fireball over the sky in Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories was caught on camera early Thursday.
The exploding meteor was less than a foot long, but its brightness turned the night sky blue, setting off the northern lights in the background, witnesses said. Peter Brown, a physics professor from the University of Western Ontario, says the fact that there was an explosion indicates the object penetrated the atmosphere, but was too weak to cause any damage, he told the Canadian Press.
“I was leading Aurora Photography Tour in Yellowknife again this March tonight. We had quite colourful Auroras all night, all of sudden at 02:13 local time, one shooting star started from Western sky and exploded towards North,” photographer Yuichi Takasaka described next to photos posted on spaceweathergallery.com. “It got so bright that I had to close my eyes like someone used electric flash in front of me. A few minutes later, we could hear the huge explosion from the direction of the fireball fell. What an exciting night!!!”
Fireballs, which are exceptionally bright meteors, are relatively rarely seen from Earth. But for a few weeks each year around the March equinox, it’s prime time to see fireballs, which can increase in prevalence by 30 percent, according to NASA. While the reason for this has yet to be confirmed, the space agency theorizes that more space debris “litters this section of Earth’s orbit.” Since meteors are debris from space, as they near Earth’s atmosphere some may vaporize while others penetrate, giving humans to see a spectacular show in the sky.
This isn’t the first fireball to rock Canada. In November, a fireball exploded over Montreal, causing a boom that shook houses.
A fireball was also spotted in Iowa in December. At the time, experts couldn’t determine whether it was caused by a meteor or space debris.
“If it was a meteor it was probably a pretty good-sized one to be as bright as it was,” Richard Miles, with the Science Center of Iowa, told WHOtv. “It could also be some space debris. Anything that goes through our atmosphere from outer space is going to be going at pretty intense speeds and that’s going to cause a lot of friction, cause a lot of heat, and that’s what causes the glowing that you see as a meteorite or debris burning up in the atmosphere.”
The largest fireball in recent history took place in Chelyabinsk, Russia, just over a year ago. On Feb. 15, 2013, a meteor estimated to weigh 10 tons exploded with the force of an atomic bomb. It shattered windows and injured about 1,000 people.