In video, meteor in Wisconsin streaks across the sky

Image of meteor during Leonid shower

A meteor in Wisconsin blazed across the sky and exploded Wednesday night, triggering forest fires and a flood of emergency calls. Photo by Ed Sweeney.

A meteor in Wisconsin was seen streaking across the sky from west to east about 10 p.m. Wednesday. Witnesses overwhelmed emergency response phone lines, reporting to have seen a yellow/blue fireball swiftly tracking from northwest to southeast. A meteorologist with the National Weather Service said the meteor exploded over Iowa County in southwest Wisconsin at about 24,000 feet, showering meteorites to the ground, which started some forest fires. Witnesses reported a window-rattling sonic boom.

Meteor in Wisconsin data wanted

If you happened to see the meteor in Wisconsin, the International Meteor Organization would like to hear from you. Information with some precision about where the meteor in Wisconsin may have landed is a pay day for The International Meteor Organization for helping scientists find any possible meteorites. Information about its trajectory also helps scientists track the orbit of the meteor in Wisconsin to possibly link it to asteroids or comets.

Meteor in Wisconsin video

The meteor in Wisconsin was a natural object that originated in outer space. When it entered the atmosphere, friction caused it to superheat into a brightly glowing fireball captured on video. If pieces of the meteor in Wisconsin actually did reach the Earth’s surface, they officially became “meteorites.” As of February 2010, about 1,086 meteorites have been found after witnesses reported them as meteors. More than 38,000 meteorites have been found. Apollo astronauts also found meteorites on the moon.

Did meteor in Wisconsin become a meteorite?

The meteor in Wisconsin, although bigger and more spectacular than most meteors, isn’t exactly unique. The American Meteor Society Fireball Sightings Log: 2010 shows nearly daily reports of meteor sightings from around the country. However, meteorite discoveries are rare. On Jan. 22, 2010, a meteorite struck the office building of Dr. Frank Ciampi in Lorton, Va. The meteorite punched a hole in the roof and ripped up the floor about 10 feet from where Ciampi was working. Fragments of meteor about the size of a tennis ball were strewn about the room. Damage was light, and he probably doesn’t need a loan to fix it.

Meteor in Wisconsin danger was unlikely

According to astronomer Alan Harris on, the chances of being killed by a meteorite in any person’s lifetime are about the same as Bill Gates needing a pay day loan: 1 in 700,000.”As a comparison,” he said, “you’re more likely to die in a fireworks accident. But what’s funny is, this is a slightly higher chance than being killed by a terrorist!” The last recorded impact on a human was in 1954, when Elaine Hodges of Sylacauga, Ala., was struck in the hip as she was napping on her couch. There is a famous Life magazine image of her showing her injury.

Meteor in Wisconsin not the first

The meteor in Wisconsin isn’t the first fireball to have an impact on the state. reports that scientists, years ago saw something different about rocks around Wavery, Wis., and concluded an ancient catastrophic event occurred. They believe a 650- to 700-foot meteorite crashed into the earth at speeds up to 67,500 mph. The impact 450 million years ago released more than 1,000 megatons of explosive energy, blasting a massive hole in a 4-mile area called Rock Elm about 70 miles east of Minneapolis, three scientists said in an article published in the Geological Society of America Bulletin. Over time, shale, dirt and sediment filled the hole. A shallow sea covering Wisconsin at the time blunted the impact.

Worldwide, there are about 200 known meteorite impact sites. About a couple dozen are in the U.S. Scientists estimate they occur every few hundred thousand years, and only a couple dozen in the United States. They are believed to have occurred only every few hundred thousand years.