December 6, 2019

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Fireball lights up sky north of Winnipeg

WINNIPEG — People looking up at the sky early this morning might have seen a strange sight — a fireball, shooting across the sky, which Manitoba Planetarium astronomer Scott Young said might have left debris behind.

"It looks like a fireworks display," said Young. "One report said it was greenish in color."

There have been numerous reports of people seeing a ball of fire streak across the sky around 6:30 a.m. near the Birds Hill Park area, north of Winnipeg.

The fireball is known to astronomers as a bolide, a large meteor or shooting star. Young said this happens when a grain of space debris comes in contact with the atmosphere, where the friction heats up the meteor, making it look like a ball of fire. He said based on reports, this bolide was probably the size of a baseball or cabbage. Its large size means it has more of a chance of leaving a meteorite behind.

"Smaller versions of this happen every day in the world," Young said. "But it's pretty rare for someone to see something as big as this."

Myron Witnicki witnessed the fireball when he was driving into work from Birds Hill to St. Andrews down Provincial Road 202. He said he saw something in the sky at around 6:50 a.m. At first he thought it was a plane, but then realized it might be some kind of shooting star.

"It streaked left to right like a huge ball in the sky," he said.

He said the object was about the size of a toonie with a tail the third of the length of his windshield. The orangey-red ball lasted for about two to three seconds, travelling from West to East before it fizzled out, he said.

"It looked like something out of a disaster movie," said Witnicki.

The fireball was about 30 kilometres up in the air if people could see it burning, said Young, and went eastward towards the horizon, probably far away from the Winnipeg area.

Young said they are looking for more eyewitness reports or anyone who thinks they may have found debris from the bolide.

"They're very dark rocks and usually very heavy for their size," he said.

He also mentioned that the meteorite would probably be very magnetic and smooth with no bubbles or crystals. Anyone with information is asked to contact Scott Young at the Manitoba Planetarium.



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