Meteor 'Fireball' Caught on Video

A team of astronomers has caught on video a fiery meteor as it fell toward Earth.

The meteor was spotted by the University of Western Ontario's network of all-sky cameras in southern Ontario that scan the sky for meteors. On Wednesday, Oct. 15 at 5:28 a.m. EDT (0928 GMT) seven of the cameras recorded a bright, slow fireball in the predawn sky.

The astronomers of the University of Western Ontario Meteor Group suspect the fireball broke apart and dropped meteorites in a region north of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, that may total as much as a few hundred grams in mass.

Meteors are fallen debris from a comet or other space rock. As the debris enters the atmosphere, it heats up and produces the brilliant streaks of light we sometimes call shooting stars. Though most meteors are destroyed during this process, some make it to the ground and are known as meteorites.

"This event was a relatively slow fireball that made it far into the Earth's atmosphere," said Phil McCausland, a postdoctoral researcher in planetary science at Western. "Most meteoroids burn up by the time they hit an altitude of 60 or 70 kilometers (37 to 44 miles) from the ground."

He added, "This one was tracked by our all-sky camera network to have penetrated to an altitude of about 37 kilometers (23 miles) and it slowed down considerably, so there is a possibility that at least one and possibly several small meteorites made it to the ground."

By knowing the trajectory from the camera observations, the researchers can also track backwards to get the orbit of the object before it hit the Earth.

"The meteorite was on a typical Earth-crossing asteroid-type orbit, so we also expect that it is a stony-type meteorite," McCausland said.

In March, the network of all-sky cameras captured video of a meteor falling to Earth that may have crashed in the Parry Sound area of Ontario.