A fireball flashed across the night sky in Ontario and parts of the US

Astronomers spotted it hours before it entered the Earth's atmosphere.
Ameya Paleja
Stock image of a meteorite.
Stock image of a meteorite.

layritten/iStock 

Residents of Ontario, Canada, and parts of the northern U.S. were woken up by loud booms in the early hours of Saturday as a fireball lit up the night sky, The New York Times reported. Since then, multiple captures of the fireballs have been reported on social media.

According to the American Meteor Society, a fireball in the sky is any meteor that appears brighter than the planet Venus seen in the morning or evening. Interesting Engineering has previously reported the fireball events in various parts of the world, but the recent episode was not just closer to home but was also significant because it was predicted beforehand.

Anticipating the meteor

In what is a rare occurrence, the meteor, which has a temporary designation of #C8FF042, was spotted by astronomers when it was still in space and hours away from the Earth's atmosphere. The credit for early spotting goes to Mount Lemmon Survey, an observatory located at 9,156 feet (2,791 m) in the Santa Catalina Mountains northeast of Tucson, Arizona.

The community of professional and amateur astronomers suddenly went abuzz with the news of an incoming meteor, and many trained their telescopes and cameras toward the skies. According to the Minor Planet Center, which tracks objects in the solar system, the object entered the Earth's atmosphere at approximately 3:27 am Eastern Time over Brantford, Ontario.

Space enthusiasts will now be interested to know if any parts of the meteor survived the journey and hit the ground when it is technically referred to as a meteorite. Finding a meteorite is very important since it can carry valuable information about its origin and provides us with further insights into our solar system.

Building capacity to spot meteors

According to the European Space Agency, an estimated 40-100 tons (about 36-90 tonnes) of space material strikes the Earth every day. While most of these are small-sized objects that do not even result in a fireball, even one giant-sized object could end up being catastrophic for the planet.

This is why astronomers have been building capacities to detect them as early as possible. Organizations like the Minor Planet Society track the journeys of tens of thousands of objects in space in order to warn us of impending doom, and even though, by just a few hours, they managed a small victory by predicting the arrival of this meteor.

As the ESA noted in its post, this is only the sixth time in human history that we have successfully predicted the arrival of a meteor.

Developing these capabilities can help authorities take necessary evasive actions to minimize the effect of such an event. One could ask people to stay away from windows and evacuate areas if the asteroid is big enough or even use a deflection mission to even prevent it from hitting the Earth.

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