PORTLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — A fireball that lit up the West Michigan sky early Saturday morning was caught on camera in Portland.
The home surveillance camera shows a bright flash of light streak across the sky around 12:45 a.m.
24 Hour News 8 started receiving viewer reports of a meteor shortly thereafter, and we weren’t alone. The American Meteor Society took more than 250 reports from people as far west as Clinton, Iowa all the way to Buffalo, New York.
According to reports collected by the American Meteor Society, the meteor was first visible over Lake Michigan, roughly between Holland and Racine, Wisconsin. It then tracked to the southeast, and was last visible approximately over South Bend, Indiana.
The term “meteor” is often generally used for any sort of light flash in the sky, but the process and terminology is more complex. It starts with an asteroid, which is the term given to debris flying in space. Small asteroids are called meteoroids. Meteoroids enter Earth’s atmosphere at incredibly high speeds, and as they begin to interact with the atmosphere, they begin to burn. The light that we see as the meteoroid burns is called a meteor. If any of the meteoroid survives the trip through the atmosphere without burning up, the fragments that make it to Earth’s surface are called meteorites.
A meteor that has a brightness roughly equal to or greater than that of the planet Venus is called a fireball. The videos we of the meteor that passed over West Michigan early Saturday morning show an incredibly bright flash of light — bright enough to classify it as a fireball.
In the case of a meteor shower, stargazers will know in advance that there’s a good chance of seeing a meteor. For example, it’s well known that the Perseid meteor showers peak in August each year as the Earth passes through the debris left behind by the Comet Swift-Tuttle.
In other cases, like Saturday morning’s fireball, a sighting is more of a surprise.