Doug Anderson has a hard time believing that a piece of meteorite, which travelled throughout space and exploded over Kootenay Lake in September, somehow landed in his backyard.
Anderson and his wife Beverly own 20 acres of land near Crawford Bay. Just like hundreds of other observers from across Western Canada and the United States, the pair witnessed the fireball flash across the sky and explode on the evening of Sept. 4.
“It was unbelievable how close that was to us,” said Anderson. “It lit up the house for about five seconds, maybe even longer. Then I went upstairs to our deck and the sonic boom was bellowing down the lake. It was quite a phenomenon. We had no idea really what it was.”
Nor did they have any idea a fragment of that meteorite would plummet into their land.
A piece smaller than a nickel was found Oct. 29 on the Anderson’s property by a team of researchers from the University of Calgary. Anderson had previously been contacted by Alan Hildebrand, a planetary scientist at the university, who asked permission to take a look.
“I said, ‘Why us? Out of all the millions of acres around here, why are you keen on our property to start with?’ [Hildebrand] said they have various methods of tracking the fireball,” said Anderson.
Those methods were detailed in a statement released Nov. 9. Hildebrand’s team said an asteroid weighing one to five tonnes and a metre wide turned into a fireball when it hit the atmosphere near Priest Lake, Idaho.
According to the statement, the fireball then travelled across the U.S.-Canada border, passing Creston before exploding near Crawford Bay.
To find fragments of the meteorite, researchers examined four videos submitted from the public and used footage from a dedicated all-sky camera at Cranbrook’s College of the Rockies to triangulate its likely landing spot. That ended up being an area of 20 kilometres east of Crawford Bay and northwest across Bluebell Mountain to the north shore of Riondel.
The first piece found was on Anderson’s land, but he said Hildebrand’s team discovered fragments on several other nearby properties as well.
One of those properties belongs to Roswitha Strom. She’s lived on her 40-acre lot for over three decades, and only heard about the fireball through the news after sleeping through it.
“I didn’t think they’d find anything, but it’s hard to tell,” said Strom. “If that thing was as close as going over the peninsula out here then there’s a good chance that it did spew some off the side. I really didn’t think that they’d find anything, but they did.”
Strom said three pieces were found by the team, who used a tractor to scour her land.
“It’s like ploughing, except you’ve got these bars of magnets instead of the plough,” she said.
Nine fragments of the Crawford Bay meteorite, which is a type of rock called chondrite, have been found so far by Hildebrand and his assistants Fabio Ciceri and Lincoln Hanton.
Hildebrand, who has been searching for meteorites since 1994, told the Star one might land in Canada once every five years. The fragments can show everything from what’s occurring in an asteroid field to how elements are made in what he calls stellar environments.
“They are irreplaceable bits of data about the origin of our solar system,” he said.
Hildebrand said he plans on returning to Crawford Bay to continue the hunt for more fragments.
“It’s not just a rock to put on your shelf,” he said. “They bring all kinds of information for us.”