By: Sarah Martin, Copy Editor
Last Tuesday around 8:10 p.m., a meteor the size of a minivan soared over Michigan. It emitted a flash so bright that many confused it for lightning, and a shock wave registering a magnitude 2.0 earthquake on seismographs, according to the official Twitter of the National Weather Service of Detroit.
People reported seeing the meteor streaking across the sky from Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio and even Ontario, Canada.
The meteor is classified as a “superbolide.” A bolide is a meteor that is extremely bright and explodes within the Earth’s atmosphere. To be classified as bolide, it has to be more than twice as bright as the Moon at night, or have an apparent magnitude of -14.
Apparent magnitude is the measure of brightness of a celestial object as seen from someone Earth.
A superbolide has an apparent magnitude of at least -17, but is generally less than the Sun’s -27.
In 2013, a superbolide exploded over Russia that was brighter than the sun. The Chelyabinsk meteor damaged more than 7,000 buildings and emitted a shockwave 26 to 33 times as powerful as the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. However, it was approximately 10 times larger and twice as fast as the superbolide seen last Tuesday.
The meteor seen was calculated to be a “very slow moving meteor – 28,000 mph” in a Facebook post by NASA Meteor Watch.
It was initially thought to have exploded near Macomb Township, but footage, geological data, and eyewitness testimony pinpointed it to somewhere above Walled Lake, according to the United States Geological Survey and American Meteor Society.
The meteor itself didn’t fall to Earth, but some small meteorites have. An Official NASA Meteor Watch Facebook page stated that the highest chance to find a meteorite is between Brighton and Howell, but anywhere in Livingston County is a possibility.
So far meteorite hunters have found 3 meteorites in Hamburg Township, approximately 20 miles northwest of Ann Arbor.
If lucky enough to find one, it could mean a serious payday depending on what’s inside.
Meteorlab, an award winning New England Meteoritical Services site, reports that common meteorites (ones made of iron) typically sell for $.50 to $5.00 per gram. Stone compositions are more scarce and worth more per gram. Even rarer compositions can easily exceed $1,000 per gram.
But if you find one, is it truly yours? Only if it’s on your property or in very small quantities on public lands, says the Bureau of Land Management.
As for the rarity of the event, a superbolide occurs one or two times a month, but seldom in Michigan.
NASA is currently investigating where the meteor originated from in space and its approximate age.