LIGHTS IN THE SKY: Minnesota meteors stun stargazers - KMSP-TV

LIGHTS IN THE SKY: Minnesota meteors stun stargazers

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Anyone who was out and about on Friday night may have seen a streak of fire light up the night sky, and those who did are the envy of one local astronomer who hopes to spy another fireball in the coming days.

"It was kind of a big firework from heaven," Chris Myhervold recalled.

Myhervold was on his way to deliver a pizza, driving north on County Road 81 at about 10:30 p.m. when he spotted a shooting star that stretched across the sky.

"All of a sudden, the sky just kind of lit up," Myhervold told Fox 9 News. "It lit up the road and I noticed from above what I can only describe as like a flare -- dropped down straight in front of me, sparkling, big tail of fire dropping down. It was amazing."

Friday's sighting is one of two recent meteors. The night before, a fireball was spotted in parts of Iowa and Minnesota just after 5:30 p.m. A dash-cam view of that cosmic event popped up on YouTube.

On Thursday, the American Meteor Society received at least 460 reports about the streak in the sky, marking the 5th most-reported fireball in the history of the online reporting system.

So what earns a meteor the "fireball" title? Astronomers say that when a meteor is brighter than planet Venus, the term is then applied to the rare celestial scene.

"This is more rare than usual. That also suggests this was a little brighter than usual," Parke Kunkle, astronomer and advisor to the Bell Museum Board, said.

According to Kunkle, the recent meteor shower could be what brought the illuminating displays.

"We just had a recent meteor shower -- the Geminids -- in mid-December," he said. "So, it's certainly possible that they could be left over meteors."

Kunkle says the sightings remind him of the Peekskill Meteor of 1992 and Chelyabinsk sighting this past February.

"This one, like the Chelyabinsk meteor, actually came in and actually did strike the Earth," Kunkle said. "I think there will be pieces found, probably in Iowa, or perhaps west of there."

As for Myhervold, he says the sighting helped him know his place in the universe.

"Kind of a once in a lifetime thing to see," he said.

Yet, Kunkle says there may be more to come. Those who want to feast their eyes on a fireball still have a chance, and Kunkle estimates the best opportunities will come on the mornings of Jan. 3 and Jan. 4 between 2 and 4 a.m. A meteor should be visible once every minute or two at those times.

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