Western University meteor curator Phil McCausland speaks to the media Friday about a possible meteorite fall in St. Thomas. Western's Peter Brown and NASA's Bill Cooke sit to his left.

Western Researchers Looking For Meteorites

Researchers at Western University hope residents in the St. Thomas-area might stumble across fragments of a meteor that lit up the sky on Tuesday night.

The meteor, which officials at Western’s Physics and Astronomy Department say was about the size of a basketball, was first detected by NASA and Western camera systems around 10:24pm at an altitude of 75 km over Port Dover. It was moving southeast at 14.3 km/s.

It’s believed fragments could have fallen in an area about 5 km north and northwest of the St. Thomas city limits. Researchers believe one or more fragments may have reached the ground.

Researchers at the university would like to hear from anyone who may have witnessed or recorded the fireball in the sky, seen or heard unusual events at the time, or who may have found possible fragments of the meteorite.

Bill Cooke, from NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, just happened to be on his yearly trip to visit Western University this week.

At a news conference Friday, he told reporters if meteorites did fall near St. Thomas is could be an important item to study.

Cooke says the likelihood is a member of the public is going to find the rock, rather than a “NASA-type” like him. He says that could be residents in the area, or meteorite hunters.

According to information provided by Western, meteorites 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.”

Photo of a meteor captured by cameras of Western's Southern Ontario Meteor Network.

Photo of a meteor captured by cameras of Western’s Southern Ontario Meteor Network.