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Large meteor explodes over Michigan, rare event according to astronomers

Posted at 5:38 PM, Jan 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-17 19:56:38-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Hundreds of people reported seeing a fireball in the night sky Tuesday, and a local astronomer is calling it a bolide, a meteor that explodes in the earth's atmosphere.

People across Michigan and in several other states and in Canada reported a giant fireball lighting up the sky on Tuesday around 8:10 p.m.

Of those reports documented on the American Meteor Society’s website, 77 people reported hearing the meteor explode. Jim Foerch, an astronomer at the Chaffee Planetarium inside The Grand Rapids Public Museum said the blast registered as a 2.0 earthquake near Mt. Clemens.

“And those sound waves are from the explosion of this cargo-van sized bolide,” Foerch said. “It’s probably the fragment of an asteroid from way out in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.”

Foerch says it’s rare for a meteor to explode in the earth’s atmosphere, recalling the last major bolide (Greek for 'projectile') sighting over Siberia in 2013. The astronomer says the shockwave from that blast shattered windows, sending roughly 1,500 people to the hospital due to falling glass from damaged buildings.

Meanwhile, Foerch said people in Michigan might be able to find meteorites on the ground near the area where it exploded. He said any findings could be turned in to help aid research at local colleges.