Meteor Streaks Across Night Sky Above Chicago, Lands In Lake Michigan

CHICAGO (CBS) — A meteor briefly lit up the sky overnight above Chicago.

The meteor streaked across the sky around 1:25 a.m., and then landed in Lake Michigan, according to American Meteor Society operations manager Mike Hankey. He said the rock likely was the size of a minivan.

“We got over 200 eyewitness reports, and they give us the directions where they saw it, and from that we can triangulate everyone’s report,” he said.

Lisle Police Officer James Dexter spotted the meteor while on patrol, and his squad car’s dashboard camera recorded the fireball lighting up the night sky.

“It looked like the beginning and then the end of a firework that doesn’t explode. It was just a large, green orb that suddenly appeared with a trail, and then it flashed out, and then it disappeared in a streak across the sky,” he said.

Unlike predictable meteor showers like the Perseids or the Taurids, Hankey said this was a spontaneous one-time event. Those kinds of meteors fall to earth virtually every day, but there’s no way to know where or when to see one.

“This is a sporadic fireball that is not related to comet. It’s actually related to an asteroid in the asteroid belt [between Mars and Jupiter], and there’s no predicting it,” he said.

Meteor showers are much smaller, according to Hankey.

“You might get lucky, and a pea-sized particle will come through, and you’ll see a huge fireball, and you’ll be really happy, but this was probably the size of a car or minivan, and it was solid rock,” he said.

The meteor would have exploded about 10 miles above the ground, and was traveling at least 20 kilometers per second, or about 45,000 miles per hour, according to Hankey.

Hankey said, based on the brightness of the fireball, and the size of the debris, it was a meteor, rather than manmade trash like a satellite or rocket engine.

“With space trash, you can tell, because it moves much slower, and it has a shallow angle, and it also lasts much longer. So, visually, you can tell,” he said.

Monday morning’s meteor was spotted in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Canada. Some who saw it in Wisconsin also reported hearing a sonic boom. It also showed up on weather radars, Hankey said.

To the untrained eye, the bits of rock that make it to the ground would look like an average rock.

“About 90 percent of all rocks are this stony type of meteorite. They’re black on the outside and … they kind of look like a normal rock. They feel like a normal rock, but they’re very unique, and have characteristics that, if you’re trained and you know what to look for, you wouldn’t see in any other type of rock,” he said.

Because this meteor fell in the lake, it’s unlikely any fragments will be recovered.

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