It was a regular night on the road home from hockey practice in Woodstock — until Kyle Hemphill and his seven-year-old son Keenan suddenly saw a flash across the sky.
“It lit up the sky, I don’t even know how to explain it, it was like blueish-greenish,” Hemphill said. “I thought maybe that was a shooting star, but it’s too bright for that.”
Keenan had other thoughts.
“He started talking about aliens, and I was like, no, it wasn’t an alien,” Hemphill said with a laugh.
When the pair got home, they took to the internet to learn more about what they had seen and to watch a few videos.
But what exactly was it that the father and son saw?
Chris Curwin, an amateur astronomer in Saint John, said he’s been hearing about the video since Monday evening.
He told CBC Radio’s Shift that because it was so bright and fast across the sky, it was likely a meteor, as opposed to space debris, adding that we are just coming off the tail end of the Quadrantid meteor shower, so it was likely remnants from that.
“These are particular ones that usually have pretty good fireballs with them, and they do hit the atmosphere at about 150,000 kilometre per hour,” Curwin said.
“So that’s really fast.”
And what exactly is a meteor? It all comes down to definitions, Curwin said.
A meteoroid is a fragment of an asteroid, but when we see a bright streak of light across the sky, it’s a meteor, Curwin said. If and when it hits the earth, then that rock is called a meteorite.
But did this one land?
“So, it’s like a treasure hunt really,” Curwin said, adding that when more sightings are reported, that can help scientists track the path better to more precisely say where a meteor landed on Earth, if it did.
Curwin said sightings, including the one Monday night, are tracked by the American Meteor Society. There were reported sightings around Saguenay, Que., and as far south as Maine and Massachusetts.
“It’s a rare event to see, you know, a meteor like that, like a fireball,” Curwin said.
But that seems to be changing.
Security cameras helping sightings become more common
In Fredericton, the best footage of the meteor was captured by a security camera. Curwin said the increase in security cameras is having an unexpected effect.
“So yes, we’re capturing a whole lot more of them now than we ever did simply because people are using them now for for security purposes.”
Once people go and review their footage, they get a shot that wouldn’t have been otherwise captured, Curwin said.
Chris Lukings was one of the lucky Fredericton residents who captured the meteor on his home security camera.
After he heard a neighbour down the street caught it, he checked his own footage.
“I’ve watched it over and over today and sent it to all kinds of friends, it’s been really amusing to enjoy that today,” Lukings said, adding this was the coolest thing he’s captured on his camera yet.
“I might point my camera a little further up to catch more of the sky now,” Lukings said,
But despite the increased prevalence of cameras, there’s no harm in watching the night sky the old-fashioned way, Curwin said.
“Looking up is always good.”