A comparable event occurred over British Columbia in September. But since this one happened in prime time over a more populated area, Tuesday night’s occurrence was bound to gather more attention, said Mike Hankey, operations manager for the American Meteor Society, which has been tracking cosmic interlopers since 1911.
“The most notable thing is the force of the sonic boom people felt. That’s what really got people all riled up about it,” Hankey told Seeker. Nearly 400 people had sent reports into the society’s website by Wednesday afternoon.
“These things do happen, but they’re rare enough for us in this time and place,” he said. “Most people will only see one of these events in their lifetime, and they only last for a few seconds.”
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The meteor was most likely a fragment of a larger asteroid, Hankey said, and it’s likely to have scattered small pieces of itself across the Michigan countryside. Cooke said those meteorites are likely to be a few ounces, looking vaguely like charcoal, and wouldn’t leave telltale signs like a smoking crater.
“Rocks this small are broken apart by the atmosphere, so they pose a vanishingly small risk to people on the ground,” Cooke said. NASA doesn’t look for objects as small as the one that plunged to Earth and probably wouldn’t have been able to spot a small, dark-colored object in advance, he said.