DR. SKY BLOG

Could the same meteor that lit up, rattled Michigan hit Arizona?

Jan 18, 2018, 2:27 PM
In this late Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, image made from dashcam video, a brightly lit object falls fro...
In this late Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, image made from dashcam video, a brightly lit object falls from the sky above a highway in the southern Michigan skyline. (Zack Lawler/WWMT via AP)
(Zack Lawler/WWMT via AP)

Observers in Ohio and Michigan witnessed a most amazing fireball streaking across the early evening skies on Monday.

Some lucky observers actually captured the event on their cameras. Some reported a very bright flash, followed by an explosion that actually registered as a slight seismic event on the Richter scale.

The event was thought by many to be a possible aircraft explosion or some form of  “thunder snow.” That rare event occurs during a snowstorm, when strong upward winds move cold air into warmer air, resulting in snow.

Soon after the event, astronomers had concluded that it was caused by a small, melon-sized meteor fragment — and that some of the debris may have actually survived.

Weather radar may have helped pinpoint the region where any debris may be lying on the ground: Scientists believe that the debris may be located in Michigan, in a small area of Macomb County.

Many rocks look the same and many meteorites are not that different from ordinary rocks at a first glance, but meteorites from this event may have a dark burnt crust on the surface.

These meteorites may even respond to a magnet and contain a mixture of nickel and iron along with some stones mixed in. This type of meteor event is known as a bolide, from the Greek word “bolis,” meaning missile.

A typical bolide is a meteor that enters the Earth’s atmosphere, is typically brighter than the full moon and explodes in the air on its way down.

Astronomers measure the brilliance of an object in the sky in terms of visual magnitude. The full moon checks in with a magnitude of -12 on this scale.

A bolide is an exploding meteor that has a magnitude greater than -14 on this scale. A super bolide is one that has a magnitude greater than -17.

We here in Arizona have had our fair share of bright bolides.

Just look back to June 2, 2016, for the great Arizona bolide that occurred near Payson. That event produced a rather large strewn field of debris from this mini asteroid.

Finally, Arizona knows a lot about these type of exploding objects from the skies, as the meteor crater near Flagstaff was created by an object thought to be some 200 feet in diameter some 50,000 years ago.

Get your very own January 2018 sky map here.

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Could the same meteor that lit up, rattled Michigan hit Arizona?