April 15, 2010

Midwestern Skies Light Up With Possible Meteorite

The National Weather Service said that authorities from several Midwestern states were flooded with reports Wednesday night after a giant fireball lit up the evening sky.

The NWS in Sullivan, Wisconsin said the fireball was visible for about 15 minutes around 10 p.m.

The Quad Cities NWS, which includes parts of Iowa and Illinois, reported that the fireball was seen moving across the northern sky from west to east.

"Well before it reached the horizon, it broke up into smaller pieces and was lost from sight," the NWS said. "Several reports of a prolonged sonic boom were received from areas north of Highway 20, along with shaking of homes, trees and various other objects including wind chimes."

The fireball was seen across areas of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. CNN affiliate WISN-TV said that it was also visible in parts of Ohio. WISN video showed a massive ball of light exploding across the sky.

Doppler Radar from the Quad Cities NWS captured a portion of the smoke trail from the fireball at just after 10 p.m., the service said.

No official determination has been made on what caused the fireball, according to the Sullivan NWS office.

However, it did say there is a meteor shower called the Gamma Virginids that occurs from April 4 to April 21, with peak activity Wednesday and Thursday. "A large meteorite could have caused the brilliant fireball that has been reported," the NWS said.

It is so far not known if any part of a meteorite has hit the ground.

According to NASA, a meteor appears when a meteoroid enters the Earth's atmosphere from outer space. Air friction heats up the meteoroid so that it glows and creates a shiny trail of gas and melted particles. Bright meteors are sometimes called fireballs.


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