Meteors, UFOs, space junk? Dawson City residents puzzled by sky sightings

Some residents in Dawson City, Yukon, say they’ve been seeing unusual things in the night sky lately — and it’s not the Northern Lights.

But some might say it’s equally as fascinating.

Over the past few weeks, some residents have taken to social media to report seeing what they described as a fireball or meteor overhead. And last week, two residents said they both saw something similar.

Naomi Gladish lives in Henderson Corner, a subdivision approximately 20 kilometres from downtown Dawson City. She told CBC News she saw something while walking her dog Friday morning.

“I looked up and saw a bright star,” Gladish said. “Or what I thought was a star.”

“Within a fraction of a second, I realized it was actually moving quickly. And then as I watched it, a second later it grew a long tail.”

dawson sightings meteor
Overlooking Dawson City, Yukon, in winter, from the dome. Over the past few weeks, some local residents have reported seeing what they described as a fireball or meteor in the sky overhead. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada)

Gladish said the unknown object started to change into a pale blue colour, like a gas flame. Then, a few seconds later, it appeared to burn out.

“I could see fire, or coal,” Gladish said. “Like red glowing bits, breaking off of it. And then that was it. I tried watching to see if I could see any dark chunks falling from that spot, or carrying on from that spot, but the sky was dark.”

A minute or two after Gladish saw what she thought was a meteor, she heard a boom in the distance.

“My dog and I both turned our head to that exact direction that I had just seen it,” she said.”I figured it was related.”

dawson meteor
Naomi Gladish hiking with her sister at Tombstone Park. (Submitted by Naomi Gladish)

Dawson resident Jeff Delisle reported seeing something similar at about the same time. He then took to social media to ask if anyone else had seen it. Two people responded saying they had.

“It flew right above me,” Delisle wrote.

“Pretty cool looking…. What is it?”

Likely not a meteor, says astronomer

Christa Van Laerhoven, president of the Yukon Astronomical Society, came across Delisle’s post and got in touch. She asked about what he’d seen, such as how long it was in the sky and the colour.

Van Laerhoven told CBC News that based on descriptions from both Delisle and Gladish, she doesn’t believe it could have been a meteor.

She says a meteor would have been moving much faster, and the colouring would have appeared differently.

“Meteors can be any colour but … as a rule, are a consistent colour. What these people were describing had different colours. So the head looked blue and then the tail was more of an orange,” van Laerhoven said.

“That’s just something that doesn’t happen with meteors.”

meteor dawson
This zoomed-in still from a dashcam video captured in 2020 by Louise Cooke from Mount Lorne, Yukon, shows what one space science expert said appears to be an unusually-bright meteor travelling across the sky. (Submitted by: Louise Cooke)

Van Laehoven believes there may be another explanation for the recent unusual sightings: space junk, falling to earth.

“Space junk, when it comes in … comes through the atmosphere and starts glowing that can be more irregular, because of the variety of materials that go into a spacecraft.”

Van Laerhoven also suggested it could a very fast plane, or someone playing with rockets.

Gladish, however, doesn’t think anyone in Dawson was playing with rockets on Friday morning.

“Unless they’re talking about someone in China, or like a distant land playing with very high, powerful rockets … then sure,” she said.

“This was not something that someone in Dawson was doing … This came from much, much higher and it was much, much different to anything that would be locally caused.”

Van Laerhoven also dismissed another possibility: alien visitors.

“If aliens were coming to Earth, we would know,” she said.

“Simply because it would take them so much effort to get here that it would be very hard to imagine them getting here and not doing something dramatic enough that we would actually know about it.”

Related stories from around the North:

Chris MacIntyre, CBC News

Chris MacIntyre is a CBC reporter in Dawson City, Yukon.

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.
Netiquette »

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *