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Sci-Tech

A superbright fireball likely rained meteorites on the Earth

A space rock may have burned up over North America Wednesday morning and scientists want help looking for its droppings.

The skies over the eastern Great Lakes and Ontario, Canada, lit up early Wednesday morning when a fireball as bright as the full moon streaked to the north. Scientists at nearby Western University in London, Ontario, say the remains of the spectacle may have fallen to the ground. 

"This fireball likely dropped a small number of meteorites in the Bancroft (Ontario) area, specifically near the small town of Cardiff," explained Western astronomy professor Peter Brown in a release. "We suspect meteorites made it to the ground because the fireball ended very low in the atmosphere just to the west of Bancroft and slowed down significantly. This is a good indicator that material survived."

Western's Southern Ontario Meteor Network and its 10 all-sky cameras caught the fireball and analysis of the video data by NASA suggests some space rocks made it to the surface. 

Small meteoroids collide with our planet's atmosphere all the time, but usually burn up completely in the process. It's thought that this particular fireball may have been about a foot (30 cm) in diameter and dropped some gram-sized bits on the ground.

Brown says he and his colleagues at Western and the Royal Ontario Museum are eager to connect with people who may have found meteorites. 

"Meteorites are of great interest to researchers as studying them helps us to understand the formation and evolution of the solar system," he said.

The space rocks are dark, dense and have a scalloped exterior. They also usually respond to magnets because of their high metal content. 

Meteorites are safe but should be handled with care to preserve their scientific value. Oh, and there's no exception to trespassing laws for meteorite hunters. In Canada, any rock that falls from space belongs to the owner of the property where it landed, so scientists urge space fans to always get permission before hunting. 

Eyes on the sky! And, I guess, on dark rocks on the ground.

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