© College of the Rockies
A meteor that looked as big as the moon swooped over Cranbrook early on Saturday morning. This photo shows the view through the College of the Rockies meteor camera. The image is taken through a fish-eye lens with the horizon shown as a rim around the edge of the circle. North is at the right of the image, west at the bottom, south to the left and east at the top.
Witnesses describe a fireball that looked as big as the moon.

An enormous meteor was caught on video as it flew over Cranbrook early on Saturday morning.

A video camera on the roof of the College of the Rockies caught the meteor's flight in a nine-second clip that you can view on the Townsman's Facebook page.

Physics lab technician Rick Nowell described the sky as the meteor passed over us.

"The dark night sky of Cranbrook was lit up like daylight early Saturday morning at 2:17 a.m. when a huge meteor rocketed overhead. Appearing as a dim dot at first, high to the north, it rapidly grew into a big, white ball as big as the moon, with a tail behind it," described Nowell.

"It flared into brilliance, lighting up the whole sky and layers of white clouds to the south-western horizon. Within four seconds the flare sank as it moved a bit south of west, sinking down into the clouds, towards the setting moon and Creston. Then a dull rumble of thunder followed after it."

The fireball was seen east in Cochrane, south in Coeur d'Alene and Spokane, and west in Nelson, Kamloops and Penticton. Most eye-witnesses described a greenish blue orb that looked as big as the moon. It lit up the sky as bright as day, and one person even said the automatic street lights switched off for a few minutes as they registered the light.

Eyewitnesses in Cranbrook and Nelson heard a distant boom, like a far-off thunderstorm, after the meteor sank over the horizon. That's an indication that the meteor broke apart and fell to the ground somewhere between the two cities, according to Dr. Alan Hildebrand, head of the Canadian Fireball Reporting Centre at the University of Calgary.

"Those booms can be explosions as the meteor was fragmenting late in flight or if you're close you can hear the sonic booms from individual fragments," said Dr. Hildebrand.

From the angle of the meteor's flight path, Hildebrand estimated that meteor fragments may have landed somewhere north of Creston along Kootenay Lake. However, he said, another video taken west of the meteor would help pinpoint where it came down.

Part of an asteroid, the meteor fragments would not have caused damage when they fell - unless it came down right on top of a home.

"It's a rock moving pretty good, so it would punch a hole in your roof but that's all we're talking about," said Dr. Hildebrand. "And you'd be lucky if it happened. Then you'd have a meteorite landed in your house. It would more than pay for fixing the roof."

An estimated 500 meteorites fall to the Earth's surface each year, although only five or six are recovered and reported to scientists each year. Meteorites can be worth up to $1 million.

However, the landscape between Creston and Nelson could easily hide meteorites, Hildebrand said.

"This country is mountainous and forested in large part with relatively narrow valleys with some cleared land and lakes occupying valley bottoms. The described fireball characteristics and all-sky record indicate a rock with an initial mass of around 100 kilograms," he said. "The general area has a lot of tough ground to search for meteorites, as most of B.C. is - spectacular scenery generally equals tough meteorite searching."

If you saw or heard the meteorite, the Townsman would love to hear your account. Call 250-426-5201. You can also report the sighting at the Canadian Meteorites and Impacts Advisory Committee here.