Just as the sun was setting in the Midwest Sunday night, a ball of fire ripped across the heavens. What turned out to be a meteor was spotted by hundreds—some of whom even caught it on video.
Since Sunday, more than 600 reports about the fireball have been filed with the American Meteor Society from nine different states. The event happened around 8:40 p.m. CDT in Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan and other nearby states.
Many of the people who saw it and either filed reports or commented on the site said they could see the fireball with the naked eye, while some said they saw it for as long as 10 seconds. One woman who filed a report with the AMS said she heard a loud boom after the fireball passed. She also shared a video of the fireball that she caught on her home security camera.
A map of the sightings showed where each report came from and the details of the observation, such as the color of the fireball and the white trail it left in its wake.
The meteor likely entered the atmosphere at a perfect angle, allowing it to be easily spotted by people in the area, said Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, according to the Illinois Daily Herald. Its low angle meant it traveled horizontally for a longer period of time than a meteor that was moving at a steeper angle would.
Meteors aren’t all that uncommon. They occur when a meteoroid from space enters Earth’s atmosphere and starts to burn up. Meteoroids are small pieces of comet or asteroid that orbit in space and can sometimes fragment when hit by another object.
Small particles speed through Earth’s atmosphere daily but typically burn up before they’re spotted or make it to the surface. It’s fairly rare that any large meteors make it to Earth's surface in the form of meteorites. NASA, however, has a complete plan to protect the planet from any such object that might come close, called the National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan. There are currently no threatening objects on a crash course with Earth that NASA is concerned about.