​Fireball Spectacular for Yellowknife Observers​​

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March 9, 2021

Yellowknife observers saw a spectacular fireball addition to their Aurora show in the wee hours on March 6. The witnesses saw a massive fireball explosion that streaked through the sky, turning night into day.

With three asteroids buzzing by the Earth over the past couple of days, coming so close as to fly inside the orbit of the moon, the eyes of many enthusiasts have most certainly turned upwards. Residents of Yellowknife and a group of people observing the nightly spectacle of the Aurora Borealis were treated to a beautiful example of this. At just after 2 a.m. Mountain Time (4 a.m. ET), a meteoroid, most likely somewhere between the size of a baseball and a basketball, entered the atmosphere and left a bright burning streak as it superheated the air around it before exploding in the sky.

Western University physics professor Peter Brown viewed Takasaka’s image of the fireball, and said that it would have been less than one metre in diameter (thus a meteoroid). He also said that it would have penetrated deep into the atmosphere to explode like that, but it would have been too small to cause any kind of damage.

This wasn’t the only fireball that lit up the skies over North America last night. Around two hours before the one blew up over Yellowknife, another one was recorded over Lamy, New Mexico, although it wasn’t as bright.

Even with three asteroids flying by the planet in quick succession over the past few days, seeing fireballs in the sky isn’t something to get particularly worried about. On any given night there can be dozens of fireballs as these small meteoroids burn up in the atmosphere, but they aren’t noticed because they happen in remote areas, where there are no cameras or people, or they happen above overcast skies. Last night, NASA’s all-sky camera network, which covers only a tiny portion of Earth’s night sky, recorded 6 different fireballs over the United States, according to SpaceWeather.com.

However, there is an interesting thing to note here: The two small asteroids that flew by us, 2014 EF on Wednesday night and 2014 EC on Thursday afternoon, have very similar orbits, and one of the fireballs detected by NASA’s all-sky cameras (maybe the one from New Mexico?) had a similar (but wider) orbit. So, it’s possible that these might be related in some way — possibly part of a larger object that broke up at some point. Even so, they were too small to do any damage.