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Glowing meteor lights up northern B.C. sky

Tuesday, January 25th 2022, 3:54 pm - People living in Fort Nelson and beyond report seeing coloured tail behind falling space rock.

A fireball blazing across the skies over northern B.C. on Sunday is likely the brightest type of meteor seen from Earth, according to an eye witness and local astronomer.

"[I'm] basically just watching TV and saw this really bright one … and it had a nice blue-and-orange plume behind it," Jason White of Fort Nelson told host Sarah Penton on CBC's Radio West on Monday.

White, an amateur astronomer living in Fort Nelson for 25 years, says this was the most intense meteor he's ever observed.

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Besides Fort Nelson, people in Charlie Lake, Tupper, Upper Cache and other parts of the north also reported sightings of the very shiny meteor on Sunday at about 8 p.m. MT.

Prince George Astronomical Observatory president Malhar Kendurkar says he will have to watch the video captured by the observatory in order to confirm, but images from dash and doorbell cameras posted on social media lead him to believes it's a bolide — a very bright meteor.

B.C. meteor/Arlene Chmelyk (Submitted to CBC) A bright meteor captured by the doorbell camera of Fort Nelson resident Arlene Chmelyk at about 8 p.m. MT on Sunday. (Submitted by Arlene Chmelyk)

"A bolide is basically a meteor, but it's much bigger in size than a meteor," Kendurkar said on Radio West.

"We have millions and millions of meteoroids just in space," he continued. "When a meteoroid enters Earth's atmosphere, it becomes … a meteor or a bolide."

Kendurkar says a bolide could travel at a speed up to 70 kilometres per second and if it's big enough, it could create a small crater once hitting the ground.

"If it was big enough, like maybe if you are talking about the size of a car or something, then it would be terrible for our planet. But this was a pretty small bolide."

Malhar Kendurkar/Sarah Penton/CBC Prince George Astronomical Observatory president Malhar Kendurkar says he believes the bolide sighted on Sunday in northern B.C. wouldn't be too big, otherwise it would have done severe damage on the Earth. (Sarah Penton/CBC)

Kendurkar also says colours of the plume left by the bolide indicate the kinds of minerals on the meteor.

Sightings of bolides have been reported from other parts of Canada in the past, such as Edmonton in September 2019 and Newfoundland in 2012.

The story, written by Winston Szeto, was originally published for CBC News on Jan. 24, 2022. It contains files from Radio West.

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