Because they happened so quickly, no one has come forward with a photograph of the bright falling objects sighted in Washington County's bright blue skies today, Saturday, April 8. UMaine Versant Power Astronomy Center Director Shawn Laatsch says witnesses may have seen a type of meteor called a bolide. Photo by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

Dozens report objects falling through the sky in Washington County, loud 'boom'

by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

It was an intriguing afternoon Downeast as eyewitnesses across Washington County, in New Brunswick, Canada, and as far away as Matinicus Isle reported seeing objects falling from the sky midday, Saturday, April 8. 

Marissa Wood of Machiasport said she saw something that came and went very quickly.

“The best way I could describe it was like a really small red flare or a piece of one part of a firework flare going off,” said Wood. “But it was super bright, and it caught my eye, and in three seconds, it was gone.”

Other Machiasport residents also reported seeing something falling from the sky around the same time, as did witnesses from Harrington, Whitnyeville, Pembroke, Princeton, Robbinston, and Addison. From Matinicus, in Knox County, one commenter said they saw the object while looking northeast. "It was quite large white, red and had a trail behind it. Quite impressive!"

UMaine Versant Power Astronomy Center Director Shawn Laatsch says the most likely explanation is a meteor of some kind, possibly a larger meteor called a bolide.

“Sometimes you can have meteorites that are visible during the daytime. A bolide is very bright and leaves a trail,” said Laatsch. “If it’s visible in the daytime, it’s usually a large meteor that hits that atmosphere and lights up. The different colors you see depend on what it was made up of.”

Erin Watson was the first to report her sighting which took place when she was out walking in Robbinston. 

“What I saw looked like something burning and breaking apart. I saw it until it disappeared behind the trees west of where I was,” said Watson.

Bolides sometimes enter the atmosphere, then break up, according to Laatsch.

Given the height of any meteor, it’s also possible that across Washington County, people witnessed a single event.  

“These things take place in the upper atmosphere; you can be quite a distance away and see them,” Laatsch said.

Loud 'boom'

Around the same timeframe today, even more people reported hearing a large boom across eastern Washington County, especially in the Calais area. Many said they felt and heard the noise.

Downeast Astronomy Club President Charlie Sawyer says it’s possible to hear meteors entering the atmosphere.

“I’ve seen meteors overhead, and I’ve heard them,” said Sawyer. “That’s very, very rare to hear that, and a bolide is a very rare sighting. The boom was probably just the fact that it was coming into the atmosphere that fast.”

“If that had struck something, I think we’d know it by now,” said Sawyer.

Sawyer agrees that the object was likely a bolide and regrets he missed seeing it himself. 

“If they saw it during the day, it would have been so immensely bright, that meteor, that would have been a brilliant bolide for sure,” Sawyer said.

A far less likely explanation for the sightings would be falling satellite debris, according to Laatsch. Although many news outlets worldwide this week report falling SpaceX Starlink satellites, the odds of Starlink satellites being the cause of today's sightings are far lower than the meteorite explanation.

However, if anyone does find what appears to be a piece of a satellite, they should not attempt to pick it up on their own for safety reasons, said Laatsch. Instead, they should call their local airport and ask for guidance there or from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Meteorites are safe to pick up, though, and there are ways to tell if you’ve found a meteorite, versus an ordinary rock.

“Check and see, is it very dense? Heavier than a normal rock? Is it magnetic? A lot of the meteorites have a good amount of iron in them,” said Laatsch. “Those are preliminary tests.”

If your discovery passes those tests, you may want to deliver it to the experts for final verification. 

“The Maine Mineral and Gem Museum in Bethel has one of the largest meteorite collections in North America,” said Laatsch. “They’re exceptional.”

 

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