Bright Fireball Over the Midwest

Radar echoes from falling meteorites. Courtesy Marc Fries JSC/NASA Curation.

On Monday, February 6, 2017, around 1:30am local time, many inhabitants of the Midwest saw a bright fireball shooting across the night sky. Some even heard a sonic boom. The Field Museum's Invertebrate Collections Manager Paul Mayer woke up from the sonic boom: "I was staying in Fredonia, Wisconsin and was woken up by a large boom that shook the whole house. It sounded like thunder and I thought maybe it was a train hitting something. I got up and looked out the window, but did not see anything. It was not until the next day when I saw the news that I realized it must have been the meteorite."

As of February 8, more than 480 eyewitness reports have been submitted to the American Meteor Society. From these reports, the trajectory determined is a NE direction over Wisconsin that ends above Lake Michigan. Marc Fries from NASA confirms this from his analysis of weather radar data that shows radar echoes from falling meteorites over Lake Michigan. The appearance of the fireball and radar echo is very similar to the Park Forest fireball and meteorite fall from 2003 that landed at least 30 kg of meteorites in the South Chicago suburb of Park Forest. However, in the case of Monday night's event, all meteorites landed in Lake Michigan and it will be extremely difficult to recover them.

See our interview on WTTW's Chicago Tonight, NBC 5 Chicago and the article in the New York Times.