National News

Fireball Cuts Through the Sky Over Michigan as Meteor Falls

Posted January 17, 2018 1:27 p.m. EST

A fireball from a descending meteor lit up the sky north of Detroit on Tuesday night, creating a brief spectacle that people across the northern United States and parts of Canada reported seeing.

The meteor survived the Earth’s atmosphere and plummeted into view at 8:10 p.m. local time, causing the equivalent of a magnitude 2.0 earthquake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Videos showed a bright flash of light, followed by a pop almost like a light bulb burning out. Some people nearby reported hearing a sonic boom.

The American Meteor Society said people as far east as Pittsburgh and as far west as Madison, Wisconsin, reported seeing the fireball. Others reported getting a glimpse in Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri and Ontario.

“This particular one is probably a once-a-year, maybe three-times-a-year type of fireball,” said Mike Hankey, operations manager for the American Meteor Society.

The intensity of the light, and the sound it created, suggested that the meteor was larger than most. While more routine meteors tend to be the size of a golf ball or a baseball, this one was most likely about 1 to 3 meters wide, Hankey said.

Almost 50 tons of space material pelts our planet each day, but little of it makes it through the atmosphere, according to NASA.

NASA considers any meteor brighter than Venus to be a fireball, and it keeps a database and map of their sightings dating back to 1988.