Researchers in Wisconsin are studying what they believe is a small portion of the meteor some Iowans saw streaking across the sky Wednesday night. A camera mounted on the dashboard of a Howard County Sheriff’s Department squad car captured the fireball as it crossed the Midwestern sky.
Some northern Iowans say they heard a sonic boom, too. Meteorite hunters descended on southwestern Wisconsin, where the meteor landed. Officials in the Geoscience Department at the University of Wisconsin in Madison have asked people who find fragments to bring them in as soon as possible and professor John Valley says their plea already has yielded results.
“We’ve been studying a sample here at UW-Madison that was brought in by a landowner west of Madison,” Valley says. Valley has worked in the university’s geoscience department for 28 years, but this is the first time he’s seen part of a meteorite. “The piece we have is very small, about the size of a peanut and there might be smaller pieces or bigger pieces,” he says.
Experts like Valley believe the meteor people saw streaking through the sky this past Wednesday night is part of a meteor shower called the Gamma Virginids that will last through April 21st. It may be difficult to find parts of the meteor which fell in southwest Wisconsin, as they may look like rocks. But Valley suggests the meteorites may stand out because of their color, as the fragment that has been turned into his department is black.
“It is on the outside a dull-black, matte black finish which is the fusion crust from where it became very hot falling through the atmosphere,” Valley says. There are crystals on the inside, according to Valley.
“Crystals that can be as large as a pea that are snow-white in a matrix that is grey, so it has a speckled, conglomerate appearance on the inside,” Valley says, “but this very distinctive, flat black outside coating.”
The National Weather Service estimated the meteor was about 30-feet wide when it blazed the fiery trail across Wednesday night’s sky. People from as far away as Missouri and Indiana reported seeing the fireball in the sky.
Contributed by Chandra Lynn, WIBA, Milwaukee