Western University Physics adn AstronomyWestern Science

Western University astronomers seeking meteorites that may have crashed near St. Thomas, Ontario

Researchers from Western University have released footage of a basketball-sized meteor that was almost as bright as the full moon. The meteor lit up the skies of southwestern Ontario earlier this week and Western astronomers are now hoping to enlist the help of local residents in recovering one or more possible meteorites that may have crashed in the area just north of St. Thomas, Ontario.

Dr. Peter Brown

Dr. Peter Brown

For video footage, still images and site maps, please visit: http://meteor.uwo.ca/research/fireball/events/st_thomas/overview.html

The Physics and Astronomy Department at Western's Faculty of Science has a network of all-sky cameras in southern Ontario that scan the atmosphere monitoring for meteors.

Peter Brown, Director of Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX), who specializes in the study of meteors and meteorites, says that on the evening of Tuesday, March 18 a long-lasting fireball which occurred near 10:24 p.m. was detected by seven all-sky cameras of Western's Southern Ontario Meteor Network (SOMN) and two camera systems in Ohio and Pennsylvania jointly operated with NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office.

Still image of St. Thomas fireball - Aylmer camera #8

Still image - Camera #8

The brilliant fireball started near Port Dover at a height of 75 km and moved almost due westward before ending at 32 km altitude between Aylmer and St. Thomas, Ontario. One or more meteorites were produced by the slow fireball based on the video records from the cameras.

Brown along with Phil McCausland, an Assistant Professor and Meteorite Curator at Western's Department of Earth Sciences, are now working to get the word out amongst interested people who may be willing to see if they can spot any fallen meteorites.

The two researchers will be joined by Bill Cooke, lead of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, tomorrow (Friday, March 21) at St. Thomas Municipal Airport at 11 a.m. EST to provide a complete update to media.

Researchers at Western are interested in hearing from anyone approximately 5 km north or northwest of St. Thomas, who may have witnessed or recorded this event, seen or heard unusual events at the time, or who may have found possible fragments of the freshly fallen meteorite.

According to McCausland, meteorites are of great scientific value. He also points out that in Canada meteorites belong to the owner of the land upon which they are discovered. If individuals intend to search they should, in all cases, obtain the permission of the land owner before searching on private land.

Still image of St. Thomas fireball - map

Fall map

Meteorites may best be recognized by their dark and scalloped exterior, and are usually denser than normal rock and will often attract a fridge magnet due to their metal content. In this fall, meteorites may be found in a small hole produced by their dropping into soil. Meteorites are not dangerous, but any recovered meteorites should be placed in a clean plastic bag or container and be handled as little as possible to preserve their scientific information.

If you have questions, observations or possible meteorites from this March 18, 2014 event, please contact Phil McCausland at 519-661-2111, ext. 88008 or on his cell at 519-694-3323.

For updates, follow @mediawesternu and the hashtag #stthomasmeteor

MEDIA CONTACT: Jeff Renaud, Senior Media Relations Officer, 519-520-7281, jrenaud9@uwo.ca, @jeffrenaud99