RALPH, Sask. – A huge fireball that crackled and glowed as it streaked across the night sky was captured by a Saskatchewan photographer almost by accident.
Now Bill Allen’s spectacular photo has been viewed and shared thousands of times on social media.
Allen lives in the community of Ralph in the province’s southeast.
He was debating whether to go outside on Sunday night to snap some pictures of the northern lights or go to bed because he had to work early in the morning.
He opted to stay up for an hour, and the fireball streaked past in the very first shot he took outside.
It’s believed the fireball was part of the Taurid meteor shower that’s expected to peak this week.
“It was literally the first frame,” Allen said Monday. “I got out of the truck, set up the cameras, pointed at the Big Dipper and, bang, it was two seconds into a 15-second exposure. Down it came.”
Allen recalls watching a bright flash of light cross the sky followed by a crackle with an orange glow.
Allen thinks the meteor may have landed, although he has no idea where. Some people who have commented about his photo say they heard a loud boom followed by the ground shaking.
“It was like lightning flashes in the sky and then a red burning ball of fire. Friends at home in Kelvington, Sask., say it shook houses and made a loud bang,” said Tracey Sauer on Facebook.
Stan Shadick, astronomy professor at the University of Saskatchewan, said the fireball is the remnant of a very old comet. Shards of the comet produce the Taurid meteor shower, an annual cosmic event, but one not normally a good one to observe.
“You could stay up all night and not see one. What’s special about this one when you do see a meteor, there’s higher chance of it being a truly spectacular fireball.”
Shadick said a meteor surviving Earth’s atmosphere is rare.
“As it comes through our atmosphere … it gets very, very hot and burns up. There might have been a bit of an explosion as the object was breaking up, so that might have created a loud wave.”