Around 1:25 a.m., a large meteor streaked across the night sky. So far, residents in five states have reported seeing the bright flash which lasted a few seconds. A police officer in East Moline e-mailed WQAD News 8 this morning saying “Never seen anything like it in my life.” Officer Allen said he thought it landed close. Then after a few minutes of investigating, he found that it was observed all over the Upper Midwest.
So far, residents in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, and Michigan say they saw the meteor. Residents in Southeastern Wisconsin told WISN-TV they even heard the sonic boom. According to the American Meteor Society, the meteor came down near Two Rivers, Wisconsin.
The map above shows where the meteor was observed. Of note, higher concentrations of reports in Milwaukee and Chicago areas (mainly due to high population density).
So, how big was this meteor? This one was likely bigger than a basketball as it was heading into the Earth’s atmosphere. On February 15, 2013, a very large meteor turned the night sky into day in Russia. It caused major damage to more than 7,000 homes, injuring almost 1,500 people because it entered the atmosphere with a heat blast! That meteor was traveling into the Earth at more than 33,500 m.p.h.!
But the length of a meteor’s path across the sky doesn’t really depend on the arrival speed. It has more to do with the angle that the meteor is slicing through the atmosphere. If the particle arrives at a low angle, it enters the atmosphere more gradually, heating up more slowly. This causes the meteor to light up as it streaks. A meteor coming through at a steep angle doesn’t have as much friction, thus less of a glowing streak.
Once the meteor comes in contact with the ground, it becomes a meteorite.
-Meteorologist Eric Sorensen