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We are hearing reports that a very bright meteorite was spotted in the southern Manitoba sky Thursday morning.

Janet Smith of Marchand says around 5:15 Thursday morning she was outside plugging in her truck, when she noticed the snow on her yard turn bright.

"That's when I looked up and saw the brightest meteorite I've ever seen," she says.

Smith describes it as glowing green in colour with smaller parts that were orange and red. She says just before it appeared to touch the ground it made a 'whoosh' sound. Then, moments later when it was out of sight, it made that same sound again.

Smith recalls witnessing something similar three decades ago. It had the same colour, and exploded into trails of red, orange and yellow.

"(It) was amazing," she says. "But Thursday's sighting topped that."

The meteorite which Smith witnessed this week travelled across the sky from north to south. Smith says it was probably visible for at least five seconds, and did not move as fast as one might expect.

Scott Young at the Manitoba Planetarium says there are reports the meteorite was seen from Dauphin down to Minnesota.

"It sounds like a really, really bright meteor coming through the atmosphere," says Young. "And that's definitely worth reporting because if we can find that on the ground that's a really valuable scientific find."

Young says the thing about meteorites is that if they are visible, it means they are still high in the atmosphere, possibly twelve kilometres or more above the ground. He adds it could have been an earth-grazer, which just skipped off the atmosphere and headed back out into space.

"So if you saw the light in the sky, probably it didn't land anywhere near you," he says.

Young goes on to say that meteorites are like optical illusions. He explains when our eyes see a bright light at night, our brain makes us believe that it is closer than it actually is.

But, Young says once people start filing online reports of which direction it was seen moving in the sky, they can figure out its trajectory. He encourages anyone who may have witnessed it, to file a report with the International Meteor Organization at www.imo.net.

"Once the reports start flowing in, you only need a dozen reports or so to be able to pretty much figure out where this thing might have come down," he explains. "And that's really, really helpful for the ground search."

Young says identifying a meteorite once it has landed can be tricky. He says they are not hot and don't leave a crater. Rather, they just look like dark, heavy rocks.

"That's the problem, because there's lots of dark, heavy rocks out there, and most of them are just dark, heavy rocks," he says.

Young adds most meteorites are about the size of a fist, or smaller. They could be as small as a grain of sand.

 

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