EDMONTON — In the quiet town of Bruderheim, Alberta a curling bonspiel was supposed to be the highlight of the night on March 4, 1960.
Stew Hennig is a city councillor in Fort Saskatchewan, and grew up near the town northeast of Edmonton.
“I was about nine years old, laying in my bed and all of a sudden we heard this tremendous roar. At that time in 1960, with all that was going on in the world, [my father and I] thought it was maybe a rocket or missile or something.”
Once everyone realized it was not a Cold War attack, the only battle happening on Alberta soil was the scramble to collect a souvenir from the Bruderheim Meteorite.
Dr. Chris Herd, with the department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta, still studies the space rocks collected from that event.
“There was a bright flash in the sky at about one in the morning over Edmonton and the area, and it resulted in the fall of the Bruderheim Meteorite,” he began. “The rock that came into the atmosphere might have been about the size of a desk, several metric tonnes in weight going about 60,000 kilometres per hour.”
Having the ability to study such asteroid fragments was a very big deal in 1960, especially when the race to space was a point of national pride.
“It has essentially put us on the map internationally in terms of having credibility to working on meteorites,” explained Herd.
Hundreds of specimens were collected from the Bruderheim area which allowed the U of A to trade meteorites with other institutions. Currently, its meteorite collection is the third largest in Canada, and the largest for a Canadian University.
The collection is now being used to launch us into a new age of geology.
“Here are samples that are coming from asteroids, and now we are at the stage where there are companies wanting to go mine asteroids. So we are looking at it from the perspective of, ‘Alright, what is in there that might be of interest to miners in space in the future?'”
Certainly, work done by the university generations ago, that will benefit researchers for many more.