A green-tinted meteor blazed a long trail across the sky that was visible at dusk Sunday throughout suburban Chicago and much of the Midwest.
The American Meteor Society reported on its website it had received more than 270 sightings of the fireball that streaked across the sky from the northwest to the southeast at around 8:40 p.m. Sunday, leaving a white contrail in its wake. Many described the fireball as having a green or blue tint, while about half those reporting indicated seeing the meteor break up in the sky as it disappeared from sight.
AMS reported the fireball entered the Earth's atmosphere over central Iowa. Video cameras at a residence in Albany, Missouri, recorded the meteor as it zipped by.
Andrew Danan saw the meteor while he was driving in Schaumburg. It was visible for around seven seconds, he wrote on the AMS site.
"It was pretty awesome as this was my first eyewitness meteor," he wrote.
He and others described the meteor on Facebook on the Everything Schaumburg community page, and other sightings were reported from Buffalo Grove, Lombard, Crystal Lake and elsewhere.
Dan Bush, an amateur astronomer who runs the website missouriskies.org, said he was in his observatory at his home in Albany, Missouri, when the fireball raced by, but he missed it.
"A parent of a student of mine from way back sent me a message on Facebook saying they had just seen something crazy, but since I hadn't seen it, I didn't know what it could be," he said. "I went and checked the videos on the camera and there it was. Boy, if last night's had happened later in the night everybody would have seen it. It would have lit up the night."
Two of Bush's cameras caught the meteor and the white contrails.
"Pretty lucky," he said of the footage.
AMS officials concluded the meteor was likely a piece of a comet.
Bill Cooke, an analyst in NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, said this sighting was special because the angle of entry for the meteor was so shallow, which allowed it to remain visible for a longer time. Cooke's analysis of video and other data indicated the fireball entered the Earth's atmosphere 61 miles above Rippey, Iowa, traveling 87,000 mph. It burned out some 170 miles later, 46 miles above Burlington, Iowa, near the Illinois border. Cooke said because of the angle and speed of the meteor, there is "no chance that this meteor produced meteorites" that would have fallen to Earth.
The fireball was one of three meteors reported Sunday in the United States, according to the AMS site. Only a January 17 fireball that passed over Michigan received more reports than Sunday's meteor. That meteor was spotted around 8 p.m. and was seen by many in the Chicago suburbs, as well. That meteor's atmospheric entry also caused a sonic boom that registered as a 1.8 magnitude earthquake in southern Michigan, according to the National Weather Service. There were no reports of seismic activity related to Sunday's fireball.