Fireball Wednesday Night 4/14

Just after 10 pm CDT Wednesday evening April 14th, a fireball or very bright meteor was observed streaking across the sky.  The fireball was seen over the northern sky, moving from west to east.   Well before it reached the horizon, it broke up into smaller pieces and was lost from sight.   The fireball was seen across Northern Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Southern Wisconsin.  Several reports of a prolonged sonic boom were received from areas north of Highway 20, along with shaking of homes, trees and various other objects including wind chimes. 

Information from NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office estimates the space rock was a small asteroid on the order of 1 meter in diameter, and when it broke up could have been equivalent to an explosion of 20 tons of TNT. NASA MEO director Bill Cooke also explained that, "fireballs of this size are suprisingly common," and that "they hit Earth about 14 times a month." It is important to remember that the vast majority of these occur over oceans and unpopulated areas, and during times of the day when they would likely go unoticed.

Fireballs can appear in many different colors, due the speed at which they enter Earth's atmosphere exciting surrounding air particles. This is very similar to the way lightning can appear to take on different colors. Since light travels faster than sound, often you will see lightning before you hear thunder. Likewise, after seeing the fireball a sonic boom can sometimes follow as much as 5 minutes later, due the large distance the sound must travel. Phone calls fielded by many of the NWS offices around the region included accounts confirming these facts. The colors reports ranged from greenish to brilliant gold, and a loud, long, rumbling boom was heard from northeast Iowa to southwest Wisconsin. 

The fireball was caught on a webcam from UW-Madison AOS/SSEC.

The fireball was also caught by a Howard County Iowa Sheriff's Deputy.                                               

This video was provided by KWWL TV. 

Also, the Doppler Radar from the National Weather Service in the Quad Cities appeared to capture a portion of the smoke trail from the fireball at 0302z (1002 PM CDT), as seen in the image below.  It appears as a thin line extending across portions of Grant and Iowa Counties in Wisconsin. This trail is positioned nearly 88 miles north-northeast of Davenport, Iowa at an elevation of just over 24,000 ft AGL.

For those more interested in meteors and meteor showers, we are heading into one such display. The Lyrid meteor shower is set to become active from April 16th through the 25th. Considering the quiet weather in the extended forecast and a favorable moon, conditions will be optimal for star gazing and meteor watching. The shower is forecast to peak early on the 22nd, where just before dawn as many as 15 meteors per hour could be seen. For more information about the Lyrids, or anything meteor related, be sure to check out the following web pages. And if you plan to star gaze over the next few nights, don't forget to bring your jacket!

American Meteor Society

American Meteor Society: Meteor Showers

NASA Major Major 2010 Meteor Showers


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