Unusual glow lights up Midwest skies

April 15, 2010 2:53:05 PM PDT
Thousands of people across the Midwest caught a glimpse of a falling star Wednesday night. The giant fireball lit up the night sky from Missouri to Wisconsin.

The National Weather Service reports it was a meteorite. And it was plainly visible in parts of the Chicago area.

By day, Scott Crowe runs the aquatics program for the Gurnee Parks department. At night, he can often be found on Twitter, checking in on the doings of the world. And that's where he got confirmation Wednesday that what he saw last night was no apparition.

It resembled a scene right out of the story of how comic book superhero Superman came to earth -- a blinding flash in the night sky over the Midwest captured on the dash-cam of a Howard County, Iowa, police car.

Crowe was driving west on Rout 176 and about five minutes from home.

"I saw the sky light up a little bit, it caught my attention, I looked a little closer out the window to the sky to the north, it got brighter and then faded away. I mean the whole events lasted about 3 or 4 seconds," said Crowe.

He's calm about it now but Wednesday night he said he was excited to experience the night sky truly lighting up all around him.

"It was surprising to see the sky light up like that, I've never seen anything like that at night," said Crowe. "I actually went home an looked on Twitter and people from at least 4 or 5 different states in the Midwest were talking about it."

In Milwaukee, the skyline was illuminated as the meteor streaked from west to east. The National Weather Service in Wisconsin said the meteor appeared at 10:11 pm Central Time.

Other experts speculated it was part of the Gamma Virginids meteor shower that started April.

"This object might have been from that cloud of dust that intersects the earth and the atmosphere and it glows when one of these particles happens to hit the atmosphere and you might see that as a big bright light," said Marvin Bolt, Adler Planetarium.

Throughout the Midwest, people called police and media outlets to report what they saw. The National Weather service estimates the meteor landed in southwest Wisconsin. So far, authorities have received no reports of meteor debris or injuries. For Crowe, that's just as well.

"I am grateful I saw it, it was interesting, it was beautiful, it was different," said Crowe.

The Gamma Virginids meteor shower is expected to last through April 21 and Thursday night it's expected we'll see a second straight day of peak activity.