A small but incredibly bright (and scientifically significant!) fireball dazzled people all over the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas early Saturday morning, streaking across the sky just before 3:30 am, only three hours after the meteor was initially detected by astronomers in Arizona .
Asteroid 2022 WJ1, initially titled C8FF042, collided with Earth’s atmosphere on November 19 at 3:27 am over Lake Ontario, near Niagara Falls, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).
While bright enough to illuminate living rooms all across the region and loud enough to startle many with its sonic boom, the meteor was eventually categorized as a safe “near-Earth asteroid” with a length of approximately one meter (three feet).
— Sarah Gorsline (@SarahGorsline) November 19, 2022
Scientists say that most of the space object wound up in Lake Ontario, although they admit that some chunks of meteorite could have made landfall just east of Hamilton, Ontario, in Grimbsy or McNab.
But what Toronto lacked in fragments, it more than made up for in striking footage of the fireball soaring past iconic landmarks, including the CN Tower.
For only the 6th time in history, this impact was predicted.
— ESA Operations (@esaoperations) November 19, 2022
This is far from the first time that people in Ontario have been treated to the spectacle of an incoming meteor, but 2022 WJ1 is more historically and scientifically significant than most.
“A 1m object has struck in the skies above Niagara Falls, becoming a safe fireball,” announced the ESA around 5 am on Saturday.
“For just the 6th time, global asteroid warning systems saw it before impact, alerting Planetary Defense experts where and when. Only 6x, but this capability is rapidly improving.”
— Dereck Bowen (@dereckbowen) November 19, 2022
Astrophotographer David Rankin was the first to spot the asteroid while working with NASA’s Catalina Sky Survey out of the Mount Lemmon Observatory near Tucson, Arizona.
The sky survey exists to discover potentially hazardous comets and asteroids that pose a threat of impacting Earth.
“I was working tonight and got very lucky. Picked up a small asteroid approaching Earth at 04:53 UTC while surveying at CSS. I could tell from the discovery images that the object was likely in near-Earth space and closing in,” wrote Rankin on Facebook around 5:30 am, sharing video footage from Toronto’s own CN Tower cam.
“At about 08:28 UTC the ~1m rock entered the atmosphere near Toronto. This footage was taken as the meteor passed by the CN Tower in Toronto this morning. It packed a punch when it hit, putting on a light show then sending sonic booms out that shook houses.”
— Marijuana Stock Traders (@MSTraders_ca) November 20, 2022
Evidence of the asteroid’s arrival in the Great Lakes region can be found all over the web today, sourced from a variety of webcams, dashcams, home security cameras and even professional telescopes.
—Dr. Teddy Kareta (@teddykareta) November 19, 2022
Witnesses reported bright flashes of green light and a loud sonic boom as the meteor entered our atmosphere and started to burn up.
— Dave Dunville (@davedunville) November 19, 2022
The visual shebang lasted only seconds, but it was enough to startle and delight everyone who saw it and around the Toronto area.
The CN Tower west view camera on EarthCam caught the reflection of the bolide on the lake surface.https://t.co/eGq0pdDBeU
Use the Archives (the film icon bottom left controls), choose the 3-4 am, and go to 3:26:29. pic.twitter.com/vpciO8nQI0
— Scott Sutherland, Science Writer (he/him) (@ScottWx_TWN) November 19, 2022
The fact that this is only the sixth meteor ever detected in advance of impact is exciting for scientists, but even cooler is the fact that, according to the Minor Planet Center, this was the smallest asteroid ever discovered while still in space.
Those looking to get their hands on a piece of history (that they will hopefully turn in to local scientific authorities immediately) can try their luck searching in the fields near Grimsby, Ontario.
Experts say that the rocks should have a fresh black fusion crust and be around 5 grams — the size of a nickel.
This article was originally posted on blogTO at https://www.blogto.com/city/2022/11/meteor-toronto-fireball-footage-important/