Authorities in several Midwestern states were flooded Wednesday night with reports of a gigantic fireball lighting up the sky, the National Weather Service said.
Friday, April 16, 2010
The fireball was visible for about 15 minutes beginning about 10 p.m., said the National Weather Service in Sullivan, Wisconsin, just west of Milwaukee.
"The fireball was seen over the northern sky, moving from west to east," said the NWS in the Quad Cities area, which includes parts of Iowa and Illinois.
"Well before it reached the horizon, it broke up into smaller pieces and was lost from sight," the service 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," it said.
It said the fireball was seen across parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. CNN affiliate WISN-TV said that people in Ohio also saw it.
Video from WISN showed a massive ball of light exploding across the sky. The Doppler Radar from the Quad Cities weather service appeared to capture a portion of the smoke trail from the fireball at just after 10 p.m., the NWS said. It appears as a thin line extending across portions of Grant and Iowa Counties in Wisconsin.
There has been no official determination as to what caused the fireball, the NWS in Sullivan said.
However, it said there is a meteor shower called Gamma Virginids that occurs from April 4 to April 21, with peak activity expected on Wednesday and Thursday.
"A large meteorite could have caused the brilliant fireball that has been reported," the National Weather Service said.
The NWS in Quad Cities said that it was unknown if any part of a meteorite hit the ground.
According to NASA, a meteor appears when a meteoroid -- a particle, chunk of metal or stony matter -- enters the Earth's atmosphere from outer space.
"Air friction heats the meteoroid so that it glows and creates a shining trail of gases and melted meteoroid particles," it said. "People sometimes call the brightest meteors fireballs."