Winter in Michigan isn’t what you’d call “welcoming.” It’s cold, snowy and you pretty much don’t want to leave your house most days. And that means it can also get a little boring, leaving Michiganders craving a little excitement.
Well, that wish was granted when a rumbling boom and a flash of light lit up the night sky at around 8:10 p.m. on Jan. 16. Thousands of tweets about and videos of the event began flooding social media, with people offering up possible explanations for the spectacle—including everything from thunder and lightning (which was also my guess when it lit up my own living room) to a missile from North Korea and even, of course, aliens.
In reality, the light show was not a UFO. But it was still pretty exciting: The National Weather Service has since confirmed it was actually a meteor. No “War of the World” stuff or government conspiracy, just your standard, you know, fireball falling from the sky!
Check out some pretty cool footage of the meteor here:
Lighting up the skies in the southeast portion of the state, the meteor also caused a magnitude 2.0 earthquake about 40 miles from Detroit.
— AMSMETEORS (@amsmeteors) January 17, 2018
The rumbling boom and flash of light was captured on security cameras attached to homes and cars, which were then posted to social media. You can see just how bright the sky got in this video from Clarkston, Michigan, posted by Twitter user @tflyer85.
— Tim (@tflyer85) January 17, 2018
Or this video from Ypsilanti:
— David Fry (@frydave) January 17, 2018
The meteor was even captured on a dash cam video and shared by AccuWeather Astronomy:
— AccuWeatherAstronomy (@AccuAstronomy) January 17, 2018
Lastly, check out this video, which shows just how fast and bright the explosion was:
After thousands of Tweets and posts, the Department of Homeland Security took to Twitter to tell residents there was no need to call 911, saying it was a “natural meteor fireball”.
“It was definitely a meteor,” Bill Cooke, lead for NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, told The Washington Post.
Cooke said the fireball was caused by a small asteroid, moving at 28,000 mph. When it entered the atmosphere, it heated up and began to melt away, leading to the bright light.
Multiple 911 calls are coming of a meteor fireball that passed overhead. There is no need to call 911. All indications are that it was just a natural meteor fireball. https://t.co/l5578mnDOF
— Ingham County HSEM (@InghamHSEM) January 17, 2018
The American Meteor Society says “fireball” is another term for a “very bright meteor.” The flash it made is called a “super bolide.”
The Geostationary Lightning Mapper #GLM product on the #GOESEast (#GOES16) satellite – designed to detect lightning strikes – appears to have detected asignature of the #meteor over southeastern Michigan! pic.twitter.com/J9R2A7l31L
— Harrison Tran (@ATXHarrisonTran) January 17, 2018
Cooke said that while objects this size make their way into the atmosphere at least once a month or so, most people don’t see meteors this bright, adding that sightings are “very rare” for an area like Michigan. He also told CNBC that only 10 super bolides explode over the United State each year and the fact that this one happened in a populous area is one reason it’s generated so much excitement.
The meteor was also seen in other areas, like Ohio, though most sightings were in Michigan. Did you see it? Let us know on our Facebook page!