November 21, 2008 6:52 PM   Subscribe

Fire in the sky - a meteor burns up somewhere over Western Canada. Really impressive video here, another video, TV news with more footage here.
posted by Artw (65 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
So thats what the end of the world looks like.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 6:59 PM on November 21, 2008

Whoa. That would freak me RIGHT the hell out. I'd be braced for the dinosaur-destroying shockwave.
posted by DU at 7:00 PM on November 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

posted by jessamyn at 7:06 PM on November 21, 2008

Well, there goes about $100,000 USD in expensive precision tools.
posted by loquacious at 7:06 PM on November 21, 2008 [9 favorites]

Seconding DU. I have nightmares about that kind of shit. That and tsunamis. Or both.

posted by brundlefly at 7:07 PM on November 21, 2008

just the toolbag. sheez
posted by troy at 7:12 PM on November 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

Oh CTV, is there anything you won't report on?
posted by blue_beetle at 7:13 PM on November 21, 2008

curses directed at loquacious
posted by troy at 7:16 PM on November 21, 2008

Okay, so now how long until the first zombies appear?
posted by MrVisible at 7:18 PM on November 21, 2008

I was hoping for a Blob myself.
posted by Artw at 7:19 PM on November 21, 2008

Seconding DU. I have nightmares about that kind of shit. That and tsunamis. Or both.

I can't remember which quake this was, but it wasn't a particularly large one. I didn't even feel it locally. But it was large enough to shake softer ground farther away from where I was to make electrical transformers all over the area explode.

At the time I was outside with a crew helping set up or break down some audio gear at a Southern California university campus a bit after dusk and the sky lit up with bright white and green flashes from just about every direction. There were hundreds of flashes over about 20-30 seconds. Since we didn't actually feel the quake it was a bit unsettling. We actually stopped work and turned on a radio to figure out what was going on. "Lightning? Aliens? Are we under attack? Oh. Earthquake. Yawn. Get back to work."
posted by loquacious at 7:22 PM on November 21, 2008

Crazy nuts.
People reported this as far north as Fort McMurray, and down to the border with the US.

non-sound-y video here

There's a lot of folks searching their farms hoping to be the first to get super[cancer]powers.
posted by Acari at 7:22 PM on November 21, 2008

Thank god for the frigging atmosphere!
posted by aacheson at 7:23 PM on November 21, 2008 [7 favorites]

I don't care, I'm not falling for that War of the Worlds crap again.

And, troy, my tool bag post.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:24 PM on November 21, 2008

Aw, beat me to it, cjorgensen. I was just going to do Mansbridge quoting Welles. Alas.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:39 PM on November 21, 2008

Wow, that was illuminating!
posted by erpava at 7:40 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Any surviving Canadian dinosaurs just pooped themselves.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 7:52 PM on November 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm just waiting for the dissappearance of the entire population of some small town...

Maybe this is the next crew of LHC saboteurs...
posted by jkaczor at 7:53 PM on November 21, 2008

This is viral marketing for the new Star Trek movie, isn't it?
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:56 PM on November 21, 2008

Sweet -- there's a projection of the meteorite's path that you can play around with.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:00 PM on November 21, 2008

norabarnacl3: "So thats what the end of the world looks like."

Fear not! There are those that would protect us from meteors.
posted by Effigy2000 at 8:03 PM on November 21, 2008 [4 favorites]

Dear Alien Rock-Chucker(s),

You missed. Harper's in Ottawa.


Council of Disappointed Canadian Voters
posted by CKmtl at 8:11 PM on November 21, 2008 [5 favorites]

People in central Montana saw it too, and some were pretty freaked out. When I saw one of the videos, I realized why -- it looked like a video clip from an 80s movie (The Day After, Return of the Living Dead, etc) that showed an incoming nuclear missile striking.

Turns out, apparently, that nothing actually struck the ground -- it burned up/exploded before impact. Or so some experts have said.

But wow. Totally freaky.
posted by davidmsc at 8:14 PM on November 21, 2008

posted by rtha at 8:16 PM on November 21, 2008

Meteor shit! /stephenking

Holy crap that was awesome.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:27 PM on November 21, 2008

There's another crash which is about to take place in Western Canada.
posted by gman at 8:27 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

An update says they believe it might have landed in central Saskatchewan.
Besides sonic boom sounds, he said witnesses also reported hearing hissing or crackling noises like frying bacon. Fireballs can act as radio transmitters, Mr. Hildebrand said, causing odd sounds.

He said other people saw the meteor break into pieces and turn red as it slowed down.

Because it came down over the bald prairie instead of ocean or forest, there's a good chance meteorites may be found, said Mr. Hildebrand. He just wants to get to them before they're covered or ruined by more snow.

Martin Beech, an associate professor of astronomy at the University of Regina, said meteorites are valuable to learning about the history of the solar system. The artifacts are 4.5 billion years old.

“Picking up a meteorite is almost equivalent to doing a space exploration mission between Mars and Jupiter,” he said.
Hopefully some lonesome farmer doesn't find a piece, touch it, and become overrun with a thick green coat of moss.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:29 PM on November 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

I, for one, welcome our....oh wait, false alarm.

Are you sure? Maybe this was a test.
posted by homunculus at 8:32 PM on November 21, 2008

There is no reason to be alarmed?
posted by humannaire at 8:36 PM on November 21, 2008

Did it totally burn up or is there a new crater out there in the woods?

I like where this is going:
Randy Atwood, a space educator, told CTV's Canada AM the meteor was probably no bigger than a grapefruit, and may have broken into small pieces before hitting the ground, or it may have burned up entirely before touching down.

He agreed there may not be much of it left, saying it was travelling at incredible speeds when it was spotted.

Alan Hildebrand, a planetary scientist from the University of Calgary, said the meteorite likely smashed into the ground near Macklin, Sask., which is about 100 kilometres south of the Alberta border town of Lloydminster.

In fact, Hildebrand is so sure of his hypothesis that he plans to spend his weekend searching for rock remnants around in the area.

"Right now, the important thing is not searching because we don't know which field to search in. It's a big world," Hildebrand told The Canadian Press. "What's important now is finding proximal eyewitnesses, so you know where meteorites might have fallen."
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:48 PM on November 21, 2008


It's very unlikely there would be a crater (although sometimes a surprise happens). A meteor the size of a grapefruit, or even a house, blows up in the atmosphere and leaves, at most, some meteorites.

Here's a previous Canadian meteor, which led to an important discovery of crumbly, carbonaceous (but not baconian) fragments.
posted by lukemeister at 8:48 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I saw a fairly large meteor enter the atmosphere a few years ago. It was probably about half the size of the one on the video but it was so incredibly bright. It was like sitting in a dark room and having someone turn the lights on. Everything around me was illuminated and it took me a moment to figure out what was going on and to look up into the sky.
posted by 517 at 8:54 PM on November 21, 2008

If nobody gets horribly mutated and goes on a rampage as a result of this, you can just go ahead and put me in the Very Fucking Disappointed column.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:10 PM on November 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

When I had just turned 6, my friends and I had a birthday campout in the backyard. As we lay down in our sleeping bags looking up at the sky, a meteor burned up right above us, lighting up a third of the sky (or so it seemed).

We, of course, all ran screaming into the house.

My father, being the cool and calming force he always is, pulled out an almanac and read to us about the Pleiades showers that come every year in August.

This video reminded me of that night,
posted by eye of newt at 9:11 PM on November 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

I am SO disappointed there was no sound in the police dash-cam.

"So - big meteor, eh?"
posted by yhbc at 9:21 PM on November 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

So thats what the end of the world looks like.

There's some speculation that the Biblical end of the world, as portrayed in the Book of Revelation, references a meteor strike that happened earlier. (More)
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:34 PM on November 21, 2008

5 seconds till it hits us
3 seconds to ground
1 second to …

posted by Zack_Replica at 9:42 PM on November 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

I saw this last night and am still amazed by it. It left a smoke or vapour trail and the sky seemed to be crackling for many seconds afterwards. It seemed like I could actually see the rock itself but I know realise how wrong my size/distance perspective was - but the firey tail was amazing and there was definitely smaller pieces breaking off and forming other smaller fireballs and streaks.
posted by jeffmik at 10:20 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

So, if you watch the video it appears to explode at one point, resulting in a period of luminosity that is, momentarily, substanitally brighter. Why does this "explosion" occur instead of gradual decay in luminosity? I'm guessing it has something to do with air density.
posted by well_balanced at 10:37 PM on November 21, 2008

oh yeah. that is a weather balloon.
posted by well_balanced at 10:38 PM on November 21, 2008

That police dash cam is amazing! If I saw it, I would definitely be expecting a nuclear shockwave for a few seconds, before realizing that it was a meteor. But those would be loooong seconds, I think.
posted by gemmy at 10:41 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hopefully some lonesome farmer doesn't find a piece, touch it, and become overrun with a thick green coat of moss.

And that farmer was Stephen King!
posted by Artw at 10:45 PM on November 21, 2008

Thank goodness that Earth's atmosphere was on the job.
posted by spock at 10:48 PM on November 21, 2008

The light was amazing. Terrifyingly beautiful. It's similar to a solar eclipse, in that respect -- that eerie flash of brilliant otherworldly light, light that simultaneously awes and scares the bejeesus out of an entire continent.

The ancient people attributed stuff like this to the gods doesn't seem so silly anymore.

MrVisible: "Okay, so now how long until the first zombies appear?"

jkaczor: "I'm just waiting for the dissappearance of the entire population of some small town..."

The fact that Canadian TV news has the look and feel of the generic networks seen in most mid-budget sci-fi flicks certainly doesn't help dispel the feeling...
posted by Rhaomi at 10:55 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Jeeze, I live in Saskatoon and was, at the time this struck, in my office staring at my computer.

Bloody internet, stealing my meteor moments...
posted by jrochest at 11:35 PM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Keep watching the skies!
posted by Artw at 12:09 AM on November 22, 2008

I am SO disappointed there was no sound in the police dash-cam.

"So - big meteor, eh?"

What you would have actually heard was.

"How far out of town do we have to drop this injun?

So - big meteor, eh?"

Which is why there is no sound in the dash-cam.
posted by srboisvert at 2:29 AM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

eye of newt, I had a very similar experience as a child in the early 60s--camping out in the yard with the kids next door on a summer night, I saw a ball of fire fall out of the sky and disappear behind my house, maybe a hundred meters away. It made no sound . . . and I said nothing, because it absolutely defied all logic, and I thought my mind was playing tricks on me. But then one of the other kids said, "Did you see that?"

We decided to wait till daybreak to investigate, and at dawn we went to look for . . . a crater? A spacecraft? There was a section of the hedge between my house and Mr. Schiele's which looked like something big had sat on it, but we were expecting to see scorched earth; it just didn't add up, and we decided never to speak of it to anyone, for fear we'd be taken away in straitjackets.
posted by Restless Day at 2:45 AM on November 22, 2008

posted by oinopa_ponton at 4:58 AM on November 22, 2008

Big asteroid sized rocks still break up in the atmosphere, but cause destruction, not just a light show.

Here's a Youtube link for a simulation of the Tunguska explosion. The video shows the blast wave 20 km from the center.

From the video description:

3D simulation of a 5 megaton explosion that is initiated (asteroid breaking up due to aerodynamic stress and becoming a super-hot fireball) 12 km above the surface, for an asteroid entering at an angle of 35 degrees above the horizontal. Box dimensions are 40 km wide, 20 km high. Colors indicate speed. The hot fireball does not reach the surface, but descends to an altitude of 5 km before buoyantly rising.

At ground zero, the blast wave comes from directly above, consistent with observations of standing trees at the Tunguska epicenter. Moving away from ground zero, the outward component of blast wind speed quickly picks up and levels all trees radially from zero point. Note how the direct and reflected shockwaves reinforce near the ground (brighter area at the lower left indicating shock strengthening). This phenomenon is known as the Mach stem and further adds to the destruction caused by an airburst.
posted by jjj606 at 5:03 AM on November 22, 2008

for DU and brundlefly: Mrs. Hodges.
posted by mandal at 5:37 AM on November 22, 2008

My wife was driving home from Indy last night around 8:00pm (eastern) and also saw a meteor come down, though not as spectacularly as the one in the first two YouTube links. It was the second one we've seen in as many weeks.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:50 AM on November 22, 2008

Those CTV clips are wonderfully nonchalant about the meteors. Had this been covered by my local news, it would have been doomsday reporting, with lead-ins like "Killer fireballs crashing to earth! What you need to know to keep your family safe."
posted by Thorzdad at 5:58 AM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's alright; shields took the hit.
posted by dazed_one at 7:16 AM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

well_balanced: You're absolutely right. When the 'ram pressure' that the meteor experiences, which is proportional to the density of the air, exceeds the material strength of the meteor, it effectively explodes.
posted by lukemeister at 7:54 AM on November 22, 2008

There is now a $10,000 reward for finding it.
posted by never used baby shoes at 8:43 AM on November 22, 2008

I have nightmares about that kind of shit. That and tsunamis. Or both.

Turns out tsunamis aren't much of a problem in Alberta. Who knew?!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:45 AM on November 22, 2008

There was an inadvertent tsunami warning in Aspen, Colorado a few years ago.
posted by lukemeister at 9:01 AM on November 22, 2008

There a staaaaaarman, waitin' in the sky! He'd like to come and meet us but he thinks he'll blow our mind!
posted by The Whelk at 9:21 AM on November 22, 2008

Back in first year engineering I did a summer internship interned with Peter Brown (meteor physics) at the University of Western Ontario. The engineering side of the project was good work; I stuck with it through my Master's. I should mention that between the UWO crew and Hildebrand, Canada's pretty strong in meteor physics research -- it's a small field. I thought I'd add some of my rusty and slightly out of date knowledge to the thread.

I was doing grunt work building the meteor radar. As a meteor's coming down it leaves a trail of ionized gas behind it which makes a perfect radar target. We were building a full-sky omnidirectional radar. Instead of having a rotating dish receiver or some such, you set up a giant array of antennas and determine which direction the return signal is coming from by checking the phase of the signal received at each antenna. Our radar shack looked and sounded like it belonged on the set of a 1950's science fiction movie. Fantastic.

The goal was to track the rate at which meteors were coming in, their size, and the direction from which they were entering the earth's atmosphere. With that information, we could tell satellite owners whether or not they'd need to reorient their satellites to minimize the chance that they'd take a hit in a heavy meteor shower.

The highlight was observing the Perseid meteor shower in August. By that time we'd finally gotten the radar up and running, and my immediate supervisor was radiating the professional pride of ten engineers plus two. We were also doing optical tracking, where you set up two video cameras a few kilometers apart and point at the same patch of sky to triangulate. I spent most of my night squinting at a video display, writing down the time whenever a meteor appeared. Interns get the scut work, as it should be. What struck me most was our third method of observation: having somebody lie down on the ground, look up, and take a hand tally of the meteors he saw. Meteor physics is one of the last places where naked eye astronomy still matters.

If you are ever in a position to look at the Northern lights through an infrared camera I strongly suggest that you take advantage of that opportunity. They look completely different, like a fast bubbling eldritch fluid.

I saw some fireballs that night, and they were jawdropping to me at the time. Speaking as someone who's looked at a fair number of meteors, that Edmonton fireball is amazing. I just...I...(watches the video a few more times), that's gorgeous. By the way, it gets a lot brighter there at the end precisely because it's breaking up. Breaking up into pieces --> increased surface area ---> faster energy transfer to the atmosphere --> kaboom!

The lowlight was ditch digging. To make our giant wheat field of antennas permanent, we had to bury the cables a couple of feet deep. So I ended up as part of a three-man chain gang consisting of me and two senior PhDs who were unsurprisingly frustrated that their careers had taken them to this point. My job was to follow the giant chainsaw blade of the DitchWitch digging machine, dropping in the cable and filling in the dirt with a shovel. It's the only time in my university career where I've felt like I was doing honest work. Since this took months, I got to see the wheat slowly grow to maturity.

As it happened, our deal with the farmer allowed him to keep planting and harvesting the field. The next year, the farmer dinged a couple of antennas with his plow, and as it turned out some of the cables weren't buried quite deeply enough...

My great regret: the Leonid meteor shower was expected to be extra large that year. Since the radiant of that shower is above the equator, they decided to set up a copy of our radar in Alert (radiant = the direction that the shower meteors are coming from). A full sky radar at Alert's longitude could observe the shower 24/7. Since I was semi-competent and knew the field I almost got to go, but my place was taken by two army leftenents. I almost got to go to the North Pole -- the North Pole! On the bright side, maybe it was good for my health to miss out. My boss ever after referred to that site as Rura Pente. "Work well, and you will be treated well," he'd say. "Work badly...and you will die." I miss him.

Please don't ask me about my own catastrophically failed phased array research project. All I'll say is, I'd never before seen a short circuited IC burn out violently enough to physically explode.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:55 PM on November 22, 2008 [10 favorites]

Well, that was quite a memoir. So one time we were tooling around in a speedboat to test how well a new array design could track our position, and I was wearing an onion in my belt, which was the style at the time...
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:57 PM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was stopped at a red light on the way home from work and saw the whole thing. I couldn't believe it. I thought it must have hit just a few blocks away, but of course I didn't hear anything or feel any shock wave. I really wasn't sure what it was. Not fireworks or a flare because it got brighter as it fell.
posted by No Robots at 3:09 PM on November 22, 2008

thats awesome
posted by BoldStepDesign at 5:37 PM on November 22, 2008

pieces of meteor found
posted by gingerbeer at 1:19 PM on November 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

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