Expert: Meteor that streaked across MI sky not rare

Meteor, Zeeland
A home security camera captures a meteor streaking through the sky over Zeeland on Jan. 16, 2018.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The search is on for pieces of a meteor that streaked through the sky before breaking up over southeast Michigan Tuesday.

It began with a bright white streak in the sky and ended with a flash and a sonic boom.

“It just looked like a giant shooting star,” said Jessica McMurray of Wayland.

It was just after 8 p.m. Tuesday when McMurray saw the meteor streak across the sky as she made her way home from work on US-131.

“It looked like a ball of fire going through the air,” she recounted.

“(It) looked like it hit a wall, made a dead stop… and then exploded. And that’s when it lit up the whole entire sky. (It) got really bright,” she added.

Wednesday, the search began for pieces of the meteor, which traveled at about 28,000 mph over Brighton westward towards Howell, northwest of Detroit, according to a NASA Meteor Watch Facebook post.

NASA says the speed and brightness of the meteor indicate it was likely a yard across before it broke apart in the atmosphere. Doppler weather radar data suggest it’s likely that there are meteorites on the ground in the area, according to the Facebook post.

The celestial action was captured across the state, from dash cameras to home surveillance video feeds.

SHOOTING STAR SCIENCE

Friction created by the space rock hitting the atmosphere took it from 250 degrees below zero in space to thousands of degrees in earth’s atmosphere. The resulting explosion creating a thud strong enough to register as a 2.0 magnitude earthquake.

“I definitely felt a shimmy in my vehicle, but I wasn’t thinking an earthquake,” McMurray said.

Reports of sightings also came in from Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri and southwest Ontario, Canada. WOOD TV8 viewers reported seeing it near Holland, in Zeeland, Byron Center, Grandville, north of Martin and Marshall, among other places.

While it’s a phenomenon, experts say the meteorite is not that rare.

“Hundreds of tons of material hit the earth every year,” said Jim Foerch, an education specialist for Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium and secretary of the Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Association.

Foerch says many people just don’t know when it happens.

“We’re 70 percent ocean, there’s a lot of uninhabited deserts. There’s the poles with ice,” he explained. “And so, most of the things that come through our atmosphere… nobody’s there to see them.”

>>App users: Watch our full interview with Foerch