‘Never seen one that bright’: Meteor sighting thrills Vancouver Island residents

‘Never seen one that bright’: Meteor sighting thrills Vancouver Island residents
Paul Guest via the American Meteor Society
The meteor is photographed from Surrey, B.C.

A bright light streaking across the early morning sky on Friday impressed residents across southern Vancouver Island.

Around 6:20 a.m., multiple Islanders reported seeing a bright light with a long, streaking tail arcing across the horizon.

Witnesses from Victoria, Nanaimo, Sidney, Ladysmith and the Comox Valley all told CHEK News the sheer amount of light was intense.

“I saw it clear as day,” said Sidney resident Joe Halasz.

He says no sound accompanied the meteor, but the object flashed like a “fireball.”

“I just turned 60 and I’ve never seen one that bright, that close,” said Halasz.

The American Meteor Society says it has received 73 reports of the meteor as of Friday afternoon.

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The AMS describes the sighting as a “fireball,” which is larger than a regular meteor sighting, commonly referred to as shooting stars.

“Most meteors are only the size of tiny pebbles. A fireball can be the size of a golf ball and larger,” the society told CHEK News.

“A meteor the size of a softball can produce a flash as bright as the full moon. The reason for this is the tremendous velocity at which they strike the atmosphere.”

The AMS says meteors can enter the atmosphere at speeds of up to 72 kilometres per second.

Retired astronomy professor Karun Thanjavur, from the University of Victoria, says a meteor of this size may have been able to reach the ground, though it’s hard to say from the limited photos available.

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The meteor is pictured from Victoria. (David Wylie)

He says larger meteors like this aren’t exactly uncommon, and happen regularly around the world, but they may soar over unpopulated areas and may not be seen by people.

“[To see one] it’s a combination of the luck factor and the number of these meteors,” he said.

The AMS says it gets about 100 fireball reports per night from across the world, though the average person is likely to only see one or two during their lifetime.

Incoming meteor shower

Local astronomer Chris Gainor, from Sidney, says the meteor may have been part of the annual Leonids meteor shower, which is expected to peak over the next few days.

“We are close to the peak of the Leonids meteor shower, so it is possible that this meteor might be related to that,” he said.

When asked if the sighting could be some sort of space debris, Gainor said it was possible but unlikely, though he’d need more information to be sure.

Victoria resident David Wylie emailed CHEK News saying he saw the meteor from Tyee Road. It illuminated the sky for about five to six seconds, he said.

Meanwhile, Ladysmith resident Susan Newman says she saw the meteor around 6:20 a.m. while sitting on her deck.

She said the meteor “was so bright and close I literally saw the smoke twirling off the back of it.”

“It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen,” said Newman.


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