Two monster meteors flare and boom over Minnesota and Midwest

A spectacular fragmenting fireball described by some as as bright as the sun crosses the sky in this frame grab from a security camera video at 5:44 p.m. Dec. 26 in North Liberty, Iowa. Click to watch video.

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.

Map showing the possible trajectory of the Dec. 26, 2013 fireball over Iowa. It was also seen from parts of Missouri, Kansas and other states.  Click for more info and updates. Credit: Mike Hankey / AMS

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:

Map with green markers showing sightings of the Dec. 27 fireball. Although seen in neighboring states most reports were from Minnesota with explosive sounds heard in the north central part of the state.  The meteor traveled along an approximately south to north direction. Credit: LunarMeteoriteHunter / Google Earth

“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.

A Missouri Highway Patrol trooper driving south of Sedalia, Missouri spotted the Dec. 26 fireball and activated his dash cam. Watching the video took me back to February’s huge fireball in Chelyabinsk, Russia. Click to see for yourself.

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 (mike.hankey@gmail.com) 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.

10 thoughts on “Two monster meteors flare and boom over Minnesota and Midwest

  1. I saw a fireball sometime in the last month or two, driving down hwy 371 north, maybe around Jenkins, MN area, in the nw sky, heading east to west. Behaved like a shooting star, only very very large and bright. Burned out before it got to ground.

  2. I was driving on U.S. Highway 14 on Friday, 27 December, approximately 8 miles east of Brookings, South Dakota at approximately 10:00-10:30 p.m. and I saw a large bright, shooting light falling from the sky just to the north of me. It was so bright and close that at first I thought something was coming right at my car. It was beautiful! It happened so quickly, and I was driving, so I don’t have video. My teenage daughter was in the car with me and she heard me shouting “whoa, whoa, whoa”, but by the time she looked out, she missed it.

  3. The wife and I were trying to put the kids to bed on the night of the 27th when we heard a decently loud boom and the walls shook slightly. She asked “what the heck was that?” Growing up near Camp Riley, it didn’t phase me and I told her, “Camp doing something or snow falling out of the trees onto the deck,” since the weather was in the 40s that day. Never did I realize it was this.

  4. I was walking my dog at 10:33 PM on Friday, when I saw a very bright light, bright green with some orange, “dropping” down over Reservoir Woods, a natural park area in Roseville, MN. There was no sound.

  5. Friday/12-27-13/approx. 10:30PM – was traveling north on 35W(Minnesota) just coming over the hill before Burnsville Parkway just south of the twin-city metro area and I witnessed a tremendous light from the fireball. At first I thought it was some kind of fireworks that someone had lit off, although I wasn’t quite sure do to the intensity of it’s brightness and the fact that it seemed to be dropping to the ground instead of going upwards(I believe it’s reported south/north trajectory might perhaps explain that). Way cool! Can’t wait for “Armageddon”!!!

    • Steven,
      Thanks for sharing your observation. Every time I read one of these I’m reminded time outside – car or in open air – is another opportunity to connect with sky even if sometimes it’s unintentional.

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