Sky-watchers from Kentucky to Canada got quite a surprise this morning: a dazzling ball of light streaking through the sky. Debris from the meteorite arced from the atmosphere toward the ground, eventually plunging into Lake Michigan.
So far today, the American Meteor Society (AMS) has fielded 222 reports from people in Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, New York, Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, and Ontario, Canada. The event is technically called a “sporadic fireball”—completely random and unanticipated by astronomers.
“We don’t track this in space,” AMS operations manager Mike Hankey told ABC News, “so if you saw it, you were lucky you were at the right place at the right time."
Police in Lisle, Illinois, were lucky enough to catch the fireball on one of their dash cams, and generous enough to share:
— NWS Chicago (@NWSChicago) February 6, 2017
"This was a spectacular fireball!" said Philipp Heck, associate curator of meteorics and polar studies at The Field Museum in Chicago. In an email to mental_floss, Heck said he was disappointed that the meteorite fragments fell into the lake, since it means they'll be hard to recover.
"Having a piece would be very rewarding as we could study it and learn about where it came from and what it can tell us about its parent asteroid or planet, and about the evolution of our solar system," he said.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated with input from Philipp Heck.