Researchers from the University of Calgary have found remnants of a meteorite that flashed across the sky in early September.
Estimated at a metre wide and weighing up to five tonnes, the asteroid fragment entered Earth’s atmosphere Sept. 4 with a flash of light visible across Alberta, British Columbia and parts of the northwestern United States.
It was estimated to have landed somewhere in B.C.’s East Kootenay region.
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Days later, Alan Hildebrand, an associate professor in the university’s department of geoscience, issued a call to the public for video of the meteorite to better pinpoint where it landed.
Using shadows from the flash of light to measure the angle of descent, researchers narrowed the search to a 20-kilometre stretch running east of Crawford Bay, B.C., to the Kootenay Lake shore north of the village of Riondel.
Led by Hildebrand, the team began searching. On Oct. 29, the first fragment was found on private land in northeastern Crawford Bay by Fabio Ciceri, a visiting master of science student from the University of Milan.
“I couldn’t believe it when I found the first meteorite,” he told CBC News.
“Since I was a child… I look at the sky with amazement. It’s like a dream for me, because I am here [to] study the solar system. It’s difficult to explain.”
The team will continue searching, but snow and cold temperatures will make finding other fragments more challenging.
Fragments of the meteorite, discovered east of Crawford Bay in B.C.’s Kootenay region, are seen alongside a loonie for scale. (Colin Hall/CBC)
Finding rocks about the size of a loonie across a 20-kilometre stretch of forest is no easy task.
But this case was different because of the video footage.
“We know what orbit it fell from… and that’s only been done a couple dozen times,” Hildebrand said.
“So we now know what orbit this rock was on and that, of course, tells us a little bit about the structure of our solar system.”
Thousands of fragments, ranging from the size of a peppercorn to a bowling ball, will have hit the ground — but Hildebrand says most will be in the forest that blankets the eastern shore of Kootenay Lake.
He expects people will be finding fragments in the area for several years.
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