The sky’s been rumbling with two bright fireball sightings in Minnesota across the Midwest this past week. On Dec. 26 a monster fireball that garnered more than 1,050 reports on the American Meteor Society’s website turned night into day across parts of Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. The fireball traveled from east to west and flashed into view in late twilight around 5:45 p.m.
Although many people witnessed the the meteor there were no reports of sounds associated with the event. No so with the second fireball.
That one came out of nowhere (not strictly true – most originate from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter) around 10:30 p.m. Friday Dec. 27.
Of the 96 sightings so far reported, 29 people heard associated explosions and booms, likely signs that pieces of the original meteoroid survived the searing heat and pressure of atmospheric entry and landed as meteorites. Here’s how Justin D. of Brainerd, Minn. described it:
“While driving at night I witnessed the sky in north central Minnesota start flickering in the clouds as if there was lightening, and then the clouds started turning light blue, purple, pink, bright orange, and then from horizon to horizon went bright white and then reversed. Lasted about 4-6 seconds, I slowed down and rolled down my window and also focused on driving when an enormous boom followed a short time later. Reminded me of video from last years Russian meteor.”
Brightness estimates of this fireball run the gamut from the equivalent of a half moon to as brilliant as the sun. If you’d like to report sighting either (or any) fireball, please fill out an AMS report form.
Marc Fries of Galactic Analytics, an organization which provides real-time information to on meteorite falls to scientists, hunters and meteorite collectors, reports that some of the Doppler weather radars in the upper Midwest picked up “returns” or reflections from possible falling meteorites from the Dec. 26 fireball.
Meanwhile the National Weather Service of Duluth, Minn. noted on its Facebook page that “KDLH Doppler radar has picked up on several objects that appear to be meteors, moving quickly from east-to-west across the sky” in the Brainerd Lakes area.
Unfortunately no TV or security camera videos have turned up for the Dec. 27 fireball. That’s one of the reasons I’m writing this – to seek more information. If you had a camera running that evening or know someone who did, please contact Mike Hankey (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the AMS and Dirk Ross at the Latest Worldwide Meteor/Meteorite News. Video, especially from multiple angles, can help scientists determine the meteoroid’s orbit and where any fragments may have landed.
If meteorites fell, I’m envisioning black rocks on snow. Sounds like an easy hunt right? Except that any potential celestial stones would likely fall in deep snow now blanketing the woods and fields. We can hope that the Doppler information will help pinpoint a fall location that hunters can explore in the spring. Or maybe kids will scrounge up an unusual black rock when looking for eyes for their snowman.