Meteor strike in Quebec? Bright flash of light and loud boom widely reported
Published Wednesday, November 27, 2013 6:52AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 27, 2013 5:53PM EST
The day after reports of a booming blue streak sparked plenty of speculation, there’s still no definitive answer to the question: What was streaking through the sky over parts of Quebec and Ontario Tuesday evening.
While officials have yet to confirm what caused the flash of light and explosion sound, former astronaut and ISS commander Chris Hadfield says it could have been a meteor.
Hadfield said that in any given 24-hour period, the earth is hit by 100 tonnes of dust and rocks from the universe.
“It’s a big gravity magnet, basically, of collecting rocks as we go around the sun, but most are small enough that they burn up way up high,” Hadfield told CTV News.
“Obviously, this one made it far enough down into the atmosphere, it actually built up a big pressure wave, like a boat going through the water, and that wave becomes sound.”
Hadfield suggested the blue streak that some reported seeing was likely the piece of rock burning up.
An expert who agrees with Hadfield is Paul Delaney, an astronomy and physics professor at York University, who says the description of the light lines up with a meteor.
"The description of the actual visual event is certainly in keeping with a meteor hitting our atmosphere at significant speed with significant size," Delaney told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.
He said the object could be as small as a baseball or as large as a couch.
However, Delaney said the sonic boom sound heard by some people Tuesday evening adds to the mystery.
"A sonic boom is a relatively rare event," he said. "You've got to have a meteor that is large enough and dense enough, moving fast enough, with the right angle through the atmosphere to create the shock wave."
He said the 17-metre meteorite that hit Russia’s Ural Mountains region in February created a “phenomenal shock wave.”
While there are "meteor cameras" set up throughout Canada and the United States, Delaney said because of the cloud cover in the area Tuesday night he's not sure if the images would be useful.
If the event was captured on a surveillance camera, or if an individual acted fast enough to snap a photo of the flash of light, Delaney said researchers would be able to estimate its destination.
Delaney added that there's plenty of interest in meteorites, and if a meteor did in fact enter the atmosphere, it will eventually be confirmed.
"Labs and museums will begin to analyze it and tell us a piece of the history of the solar system."
A spokesperson for Earthquakes Canada said the agency received a number of calls Tuesday evening, but their data did not indicate that any seismic activity took place.
Quebec police told CTV Montreal on Tuesday that they were unsure of what caused the sound.
Police were sent to investigate the claims in Vaudreuil, located approximately 45 kilometres west of Montreal, but were unable to pinpoint the source of the noise.
There have been no reports of damage.
A meteor, followed by a snowstorm in Ottawa Valley area. Didn't that kill the dinosaurs?— Jen Christie (@SavvyFarmgirl) November 27, 2013
While a meteorite strike can often be detected by seismographs, Earthquake Canada said it had not registered any such event. The United States Geological Survey also said it had no recent reports of any earthquakes in the area.
But some Twitter users had their own theories on what was behind the noise.
The bang was not a meteor or explosion. It was Quebec separating from the rest of Canada. #Montreal— William (@wchan13) November 27, 2013