University of Calgary researchers have a preliminary estimate of where meteorites fell on the east side of Kootenay Lake stretching from the community of Riondel to Garland Bay. Anyone interested in searching for meteorites should know that the area is mostly forested with moderate to steep slopes. Google Earth

Researcher asking public to help locate meteorites

Professor A. Hildebrand is looking to gather more videos of a meteorite that recently lit up the sky

Professor Alan Hildebrand is looking to gather more videos of a meteorite that lit up the sky before crashing to earth in southeast British Columbia on Labour Day.

The meteorite gained attention when it entered the Earth’s atmosphere as a brilliant fireball. It was seen by witnesses across B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as Montana, Idaho and Washington State.

The asteroid fragment is estimated to have weighed between one and five tonnes before it broke up, but the surviving rocks have not yet been found.

University of Calgary researchers have travelled to the Kootenay area of B.C. to interview eyewitnesses, and locate video taken by security cameras, but they’re looking for more help to pinpoint where these rare rocks from space may have landed.

“Social media and the web are making it easier to gather information, but you still have to be in the field to collect and calibrate observations,” says Hildebrand.

Fireball approximate trajectory calculated

A dedicated fireball all-sky camera run by Rick Nowell at the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook captured a detailed record of the fireball from start to finish, and it will be used to calculate a pre-fall orbit for the rock.

“In the Kootenays our meteor camera has seen a meteor hitting the ground four times in the last six years. This is our chance to find a chunk of one of these ‘falling stars’ and hold it in our hand.

“This is a great opportunity to recover meteorites that have fallen from a known orbit – that has only been done about two dozen times before and is a big science bonus,” says Nowell.

Together with the additional clues from about a dozen other videos and a dozen eyewitness accounts, the UCalgary researchers have pieced together an approximate trajectory. The rock hit the atmosphere northeast of Priest Lake, Idaho headed slightly west of due north. Racing across the border, it passed west of Creston heading up the Kootenay Lake valley to cross the Crawford Bay peninsula.

“The fireball ended southeast of Kaslo after travelling across more than 100 kilometres in approximately eight seconds and penetrating deep into the atmosphere, shaking the Kootenay valley with thunder-like booms. The largest rocks may have fallen into Kootenay Lake,” says Hildebrand.

“We now have a preliminary estimate of where meteorites fell on the east side of Kootenay Lake stretching from the community of Riondel to Garland Bay. Anyone interested in searching for meteorites should know that the area is mostly forested with moderate to steep slopes. Also be mindful the fire risk in the area remains high.”

Do you have any video that could help?

Researchers encourage anyone running security or wildlife cameras in the Kootenay Lake area to check their cameras (September 4 fireball start time of approximately 22:11:25 PDT) to see if they captured the light and shadows cast by the fireball.

Anyone with a video is asked to contact Alan Hildebrand directly at ahildebr@ucalgary.ca. With enough video information, a precise trajectory can be calculated and a better prediction made of where meteorites fell.

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