Scientists with the University of Alberta say a fireball seen over skies in Western Canada Monday morning was a fragment of a comet.
“This chunk was largely made of dust and ice, burning up immediately without leaving anything to find on the ground — but instead giving us a spectacular flash,” said Patrick Hill in the department of earth and atmospheric sciences at the University of Alberta.
The university says the fragment actually streaked through the sky about 120 kilometres north of Edmonton at an altitude of 46 kilometres, allowing it to be picked up on camera throughout Alberta and in parts of both B.C. and Saskatchewan.
The scientists believe the fragment was not large, likely just tens of centimetres across in size, and hit the atmosphere at 220,000 kilometres per hour.
“This incredible speed and the orbit of the fireball tell us that the object came at us from way out at the edge of the solar system—telling us it was a comet, rather than a relatively slower rock coming from the asteroid belt,” said Chris Herd, curator of the schools Meteorite Collection and professor in the Faculty of Science.
“Comets are made up of dust and ice and are weaker than rocky objects, and hitting our atmosphere would have been like hitting a brick wall for something travelling at this speed.”