Hanmer resident Greg Lafleche snapped a few photos of several large meteor-like objects streaking across the sky Sept. 15 at about 11 p.m. He said he's seen plenty of shooting stars in his life, but they were never anything like this.
“It has never been this close,” he said. “It seemed like they were right there. I thought it might have been part of a plane or a satellite, I don't know.”
Simon McMillan, a staff scientist at Science North, said he isn't 100 per cent sure what Lafleche saw, but a callout on the science centre's Facebook page confirmed several other sightings.
“We have had at least one other person on our own Facebook page tell us they saw something streaking across the sky that same night, around the same time, in a northwesterly direction,” McMillan said. “They said it lasted about three to five seconds, which definitely sounds like a large meteor to me.”
Other witness accounts, combined with the pictures from Lafleche, make McMillan “pretty confident” that it was a meteor, putting to rest any type of unidentified flying object sightings.
After viewing the photos, he was interested to see that the balls of fire in the sky were just as bright as the streetlights, “and the brighter the meteor means the bigger it is. It's rare to see them this bright and big. There is all kinds of things floating out there in space, from small grains of sand that we get hit with with all the time to larger chunks with which we get hit on a much rarer occasion.”
In order to get a better understanding of just what the balls of fire were and where they might have landed, a scientist would have to analyze video footage or find any potential remnant that might have landed. However, finding such remnants in Northern Ontario with all its forested land is almost impossible, McMilland said.
“The more people we have confirming a sighting means we'd be better able to tell in which direction it was travelling and potentially piece together where it may have landed,” he said.
While he's chalking it up to a meteor sighting, McMillan said it's still an interesting story.
“Although it's likely not a very significant event, it is still an opportunity to talk about what's out there, and the fact we do get hit with rocks from space,” he said. “Eventually, we will again get hit by something this big.”
Such sightings are a good reminder that “we are on a planet that is orbiting around the sun, and we're very much a part of a universe with who knows what's floating in space.”