A flash of light and a ball of fire ignited the Midwestern sky Tuesday night, captivating the eyes of anyone who happened to look up at the sky around 8:10 p.m..
According to the Detroit Free Press, people reported seeing what scientists are officially terming a “fireball” in all parts of Michigan and in other states including Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri as well as Ontario, Canada.
Estimated to be about two meters in diameter, the fireball moved slowly down the sky and caused an earthquake registering at a magnitude of 2.0, according to the United States Geological Survey.
Both students and Hillsdale residents reported seeing and hearing the fireball. According to the Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were dispatched to the area of Half Moon Lake Road in Fayette Township following reports of an unexplained object that “looked like a ball of flames” in the sky.
The Sheriff’s office was unable to comment on their findings.
Senior Aaron Andrews said he was hanging out with friends when he saw a ball of light streaming down the sky. Although silent, he said he could see pieces of rock flying off as it made its descent. The light was so bright that not only did it light up the sky outside, but it also lit up the interior of the house where Andrews and his friends were sitting.
“It was kind of like a shooting star, but multiplied by 20,” he said.
Senior Nathan Steinmeyer said he had a similar experience as he was walking out of the Mossey Library on the path down to the Howard Music Building. According to Steinmeyer, the light looked like a Roman candle that lasted for 15 – 30 seconds before fizzling out toward the ground.
“It was remarkably like a firework,” he said.
Steinmeyer also noted the meteor’s silence, which he said made the sparks shooting off of it all the more remarkable.
Over near the hospital, Hillsdale resident Penny Swan said she did not see the meteor, but only heard it. Swan had just eaten dinner and was cleaning up her house when she heard a rumble. Thinking it was an earthquake, she checked Facebook to see what happened. No one had reported on an earthquake, so she thought nothing of the incident for the time.
“I assumed it was just a truck until I saw the reports much later,” she said.
Assistant Professor of Physics Timothy Dolch said these types of fireballs are more common than people tend to think, citing a famous 2013 incident when a fireball in Russia was so bright that it even lit up the sky during the daytime.
According to Dolch, this most recent Michigan fireball was brighter than a full moon.
“These sorts of things certainly are pretty startling,” he said.