The Peace River Meteorite

Article information from Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 58, p.109

The day before April Fool’s Day, 1963, a fireball exploded in the sky over Peace River, Alberta.  Although it took some talking to convince experts from the University and Research Council, one graduate student was from Peace River and started an investigation.

It was no prank: plenty of people had been up at 4:30 that morning, going about their business on their farms or returning from Saturday night parties.  They had astonishing stories to tell.

There was an orange glow, followed by a flash of brightest white that lit up the night sky like daylight.  It faded… then there was a rumbling noise, seemingly from everywhere, and houses began to shake.  That’s what happens when a bolide detonates 13km overhead.

Several people saw the object streaking across the sky.  A witness near Valleyview and another in Tangent saw it break in two; one half a descending fireball and the other disappearing over the horizon.  Men in Peace River and Belloy saw shards of flaming debris hit the ground.  An RCMP officer noted a disturbance in CJCA reception just before witnessing the fireball arc across the sky, and men in Shaftsbury actually heard the hissing of the meteorite speeding and burning through the atmosphere.

Can you imagine something that looked as big and orange as the full moon falling from the sky?

After a lot of calculations and ground searches, the first chunk of meteorite was found – an 18 pound chunk!  Another fragment was found… some time after a coyote had discovered it and deposited his mark of ownership on top.  People who had been combing the ground for bits of meteorite for days must have gotten a chuckle out of that.  Other fragments were found in sloughs and fields after the snow melted.  Altogether 45.76 kg of the meteorite were recovered just west of Brownvale.

The Peace River Meteorite was classified as a small L6 chondrite, meaning it is one of the second most common types of meteorite known.  Still incredibly rare, though, and probably a once in a lifetime experience for witnesses.  Unless… where were those witnesses on November 20th, 2008 when the most recent meteorite went streaking over Alberta and Saskatchewan?

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2 Responses to The Peace River Meteorite

  1. I enjoy just taking a break from studying and stopping by your web page. I just wish you posted a lot more usually.

  2. Pingback: More Meteors Over Alberta | Town Spirit

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