Column: Meteorite more exciting than 2.2 magnitude earthquake

Great Outdoors by James Murray

Like a lot of other people in the Shuswap on Saturday evening, I experienced what is being described by Natural Resource Canada as a 2.2 magnitude earthquake, originating one kilometre below the earth’s surface approximately 4.7 kilometres north-east of Salmon Arm.

If I were to describe it, I would say it felt like a bump, as if a vehicle had hit the house, not hard, just rolled into it. I also heard a sound, not loud, just a momentary sound sort of like part of the house was shifting from the cold. I was actually too busy watching television to give it much thought.

It wasn’t until I started getting messages on my cell phone that I even became aware something more significant had happened, and that other people had experienced something as well. Social media started lighting up and before long there were all sorts of descriptions and possible explanations of what was going on. Some people said their whole house shook and they heard a loud bang. Others were saying there had been an explosion over on 16th Avenue. This rumor was quickly dispelled when the police were sent out and no explosion or damage to buildings was found. Some people were even suggesting a meteorite had struck, maybe somewhere south of town towards Enderby or Armstrong. That was when I got a little more interested.

Wow, a meteorite landing right here in the Shuswap. I was almost ready to jump in the Jeep and head, well, that was the problem. Nothing had been confirmed yet and where would I head to anyhow? Meteorite landings tend to occur at far greater distances away from where people think they saw them land. I went back to watching Chef’s Table on Netflix.

From what I have been able to learn on the Internet, earthquakes are not all that uncommon in the Southern Interior. Most are small and almost undetectable or at least cause no damage. Having said that, there have been a few that would have sat people upright in their beds so to speak. One occurred Feb. 4, 1918 near Mica Creek, approximately 150 kilometres north of Revelstoke. That one registered a magnitude of 6.0. A 5.0 magnitude earthquake, the second most powerful to hit this region, was recorded southwest of Kamloops near Lytton on Sept. 22, 1926. Another was recorded on Aug. 17, 2002, with a magnitude of 4.5. Its epicentre was less than 100-km due west of Kelowna. So it would seem that Salmon Arm is not alone in having experienced an earthquake.

Now if it had been a meteorite landing that would have been something to get excited about.

Read more: Earthquake jogs memory of meteor strike

Read more: Update: No aftershocks expected after Shuswap earthquake

The word meteor comes from the Greek word meteoron. It is used to describe the streak of light produced as matter falls into the Earth’s atmosphere, creating a temporary incandescence resulting from atmospheric friction. A meteoroid is matter revolving around the sun or any object in interplanetary space that is too small to be called an asteroid or a comet. A meteorite is a meteoroid that has managed to reach the surface of the Earth without being completely vaporized. The majority of meteorites are believed to be fragments of asteroids.

It is thought that most meteors are formed by the decay of a comet nucleus and consequently follow the path of the original orbit of the comet. When the Earth’s orbit intersects a meteor “stream,” a meteor shower is said to result. A meteor shower typically last for several days. Pretty cool to think about something hurtling through space for tens or even hundreds of thousands of years and then landing here on planet Earth.

There will be three significant meteor showers this year that we can look forward to seeing in the night sky. The Lyrids shower, which will occur on the night of April 22, the Eta Aquarids on the nights of May 5th and 6th, as well as the Perseids on the evening of August 12. There is something truly awe inspiring about watching a meteor shower.

So you can see why I was a little more excited about the prospect of a meteorite landing here in the Shuswap on Saturday evening that I am about a 2.2 magnitude earthquake. Of course, if a vehicle had struck the house I probably would have had some concern, but a meteorite – I really would have jumped in the Jeep and headed out.


@SalmonArm
newsroom@saobserver.net

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