Spotted a meteor in Winnipeg? It’s likely not what you think
If you caught a glimpse of what looked like a meteor in Winnipeg skies over the last couple of days, it’s likely not what you think.
Photos have circulated across social media showing strange, cylindrical-like trails in the skies that look like meteors to some sky gazers.
Manitoba Museum Planetarium Astronomer Scott Young said he’s had several calls reporting meteor sightings that turned out to be nothing of the sort.
“I’ve had some calls where people say, ‘I saw this thing that looked like a meteor. I could see it for several minutes.’ None of them have turned out to be real meteors,” Young said.
CTV News submitted a photo of a similar sighting to Young for his analysis. He said in reality, the figure captured in the photo is likely a jet contrail – line-shaped clouds produced by aircraft exhaust fog or changes in air pressure. Young compares it to smoke that comes out of car tailpipes on a cold day.
“It looks very short because the weather conditions were such that the contrails were sort of fading away really quickly, so it didn’t like the typical one that stretches all the way across the sky. It was disappearing as the plane moved,” Young explained. “So it kind of looks like a meteor slowly moving across the sky.”
Young attributes the number of mistaken meteor sightings to the Orionid meteor shower currently happening over Manitoba. However, he says the full moon made it very difficult to spot.
“Basically, the moon right now is washing out the meteor shower, so this isn’t one that I recommend people go looking for,” he said, noting December’s Geminid meteor shower could present a better viewing opportunity.
Young said it can be tough to spot the difference between contrails and meteors, especially if the sun is lighting up the contrail from underneath. However, he said generally a meteor will glow and is not just a silhouette against a brighter sky, like a contrail. Meteors also move very quickly and are generally only visible to the human eye for a few seconds.
“A really long one might last five seconds, but anything longer than that is pretty much not a meteor,” he said.
Scott said in addition to jet contrails, folks have also mistaken the International Space Station for a meteor, which has been above Winnipeg in recent days.