Seen across seven states, a meteor in the skies of southeastern Michigan quickly brightened into a fireball, and then exploded, filling the sky with flashes of bright blue-white light. Some witnesses heard a large BOOM! concurrent with the flash – many reported hearing the sound delayed. There have been numerous reports of houses shaking, windows rattling, and frightened pets.
Technically, the event was a bolide – a fireball that explodes in the atmosphere, often with visible fragmentation and bright blue-white light and flashes. Many of my astronomer friends are referring to it as a superbolide – a bolide that reaches an apparent magnitude of −17 or brighter. Sitting in front of my computer, in my basement, I completely missed this rare astronomical event…
My Go-To site for the reporting of fireballs is the The American Meteor Society. Shortly after the event, their website had crashed, displaying the following message:
“Major event in Michigan. Server is getting overloaded. We’ll be back asap, check back soon. If you saw the fireball report it here: fireballs.imo.net“
I kept monitoring Twitter for news of the event – #meteor was trending, and I and saw this post from NASA SPoRT:
The Geostationary Lightning Mapper aboard @NOAA‘s #GOES16 may have detected the #fireball that occurred over SE Michigan this evening (upper left corner of image). #meteor #GLM #miwx pic.twitter.com/0fgw0cZW34
— NASA SPoRT (@NASA_SPoRT) January 17, 2018
One of the more interesting reports I saw was that the shock-wave from the event was so powerful that it registered as a 2.0 earthquake!
— NWS Detroit (@NWSDetroit) January 17, 2018
One of the cameras in NASA’s All-sky Fireball Network saw the meteor.
When the American Meteor Society website came back up, they had a blog entry about the event, with the following map of reports they’d received from witnesses:
Using the map of the object’s trajectory from the American Meteor Society, I think purple oval is a good estimate of where any meteorites from this event may lay. This area is known as a strewn-field, and it stretches from Howell, Michigan, along the I-96 to Williamston, Michigan. At the time of this writing, I have not heard any reports of damage or meteorite finds.
There are several eyewitnesses videos of the event on Twitter and YouTube:
I was also interviewed by a reporter from the Detroit News. As I was writing this post, I found that many of the details I told to that Detroit News reporter ended up in an article the Washington Post!
UPDATE: The Detroit Free Press posted an article with this image – NASA: Meteorites probably in Livingston County’s Hamburg Township. The article states “Doppler weather radar picked up material falling in [the Hamburg Township] area shortly after the meteor was reported at roughly 8:15 p.m.”