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updated: 2/7/2017 9:13 AM

Lisle cop captures meteor that lit up the sky on his dashcam

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  • Video: "Definitely pretty neat"

  • This image from a dashcam video provided by the Lisle Police Department shows a meteor as it streaked over the Midwest and likely into Lake Michigan early Monday morning. The meteor lit up the sky across several states and was caught by police footage in suburbs including Lisle and Wood Dale.

    This image from a dashcam video provided by the Lisle Police Department shows a meteor as it streaked over the Midwest and likely into Lake Michigan early Monday morning. The meteor lit up the sky across several states and was caught by police footage in suburbs including Lisle and Wood Dale.
    Associated Press

  • Lisle Officer Jim Dexter was patrolling early Monday morning when he saw a meteor flash across the sky and captured it on his dashcam.

    Lisle Officer Jim Dexter was patrolling early Monday morning when he saw a meteor flash across the sky and captured it on his dashcam.
    Courtesy of Lisle police

 
 

Patrolling the northeast corner of Lisle at 1:25 a.m. Monday, police Officer Jim Dexter noticed something bright in the sky and activated his dashcam to capture it.

A few hours later, when the world awoke from its post-Super Bowl slumber and Dexter's shift was ending, he and his footage were capturing attention from across the suburbs -- and the world.

The BBC, USA Today, CNN and publications from Iowa and Florida were among those calling to talk to the cop who captured the meteor dashing through the night. The Daily Herald caught up with him after he had napped following what turned into a 14-hour shift because of all the late-breaking excitement.

"It was a quiet, friendly night interrupted by a giant meteor streaking across the sky," he said. "It was so awesome."

People across the Midwest noticed the meteor as it traveled a southwest to northeast trajectory that likely ended in Lake Michigan somewhere between Sheboygan and Manitowoc in Wisconsin, according to the American Meteor Society.

Michelle Nichols, an astronomer with the Adler Planetarium, said no one had tracked the orbit of this meteor before it made its appearance, so no one knew it was coming. That's not uncommon, she said, because there aren't enough telescopes or astronomers to watch the sky over all the watery and unpopulated areas of the globe.

"The solar system has a lot of these things and we don't know where a whole lot of them are," she said.

The meteor likely was between 3 and 6 feet in diameter, and was about 10 miles in the sky when it passed overhead, Nichols said.

When the National Weather Service was looking for confirmation of the meteor's flight, Dexter shared the footage he captured. The agency soon posted it to the Facebook page for its Chicago office, calling it "incredible." The agency also posted a clip showing the meteor from a Morton Grove squad car, and the Wood Dale police department shared a video capturing the meteor above the Metra station. Twelve hours after the meteor blazed across the area, more than 32,000 people had seen and shared Dexter's clip. On the Illinois Storm Chase Facebook Page, where the Lisle video also was posted early Monday, another 6,100 saw and shared it.

Dexter, 34, who has been with the Lisle department for two years of a 10-year police career, said he was running license plates of parked cars in a subdivision just south of I-88 when he happened to look up and see the meteor's flash. He's seen meteor showers and a transformer explosion before during seven years on overnight shifts, but nothing like this, he said.

He hit record on his dashcam after seeing the streak, and the system captured and saved footage from the previous minute. He pulled closer to the tollway to make sure there wasn't anything on fire, and when there wasn't, he headed back to the station to investigate.

"It looked like it happened directly over I-88," he said. "It certainly didn't look like it was streaming over the sky into Wisconsin."

Nichols said distance of matter from space can be deceiving because it's moving so quickly.

"These meteors look like they're enormous, when in fact, they're only a few feet across," she said.

A meteor likely similar to Monday's hit the suburbs in 2003, with one piece of it breaking off and falling into a house in Park Forest, Nichols said. Because the rock broke into smaller shards before striking ground, it caused minimal damage.

Nichols said that's probably what happened to Monday morning's meteor, too. If experts determine all of the meteor fell into Lake Michigan, it likely won't be found for further study because its pieces will blend in with other rocks at the bottom of the lake.

• Daily Herald staff writer Lee Filas contributed to this report.

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