Des Moines Register 02-06-07

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Des Moines Register
02-06-07
Iowans report seeing meteor that lit up sky over four states
There are no reports of Sunday night's fireball hitting the ground.
By TOM BARTON
REGISTER STAFF WRITER
Goodness, gracious, it was a great ball of fire.
While most were busy agonizing or celebrating over Super Bowl XLI, some
Iowans witnessed another type of spectacle Sunday night - one from the
heavens.
The National American Aerospace Defense Command, which watches for
airborne threats to the United States and Canada, confirmed Monday that a ball
of fire seen streaking across the sky in four states, including Iowa, was caused
by a meteor that entered the atmosphere over St. Louis.
Michael Kucharek, chief of current operations for NORAD and U.S. Northern
Command public affairs, said the command center received reports around 11
p.m. of people, including a military pilot, witnessing streaks of bright light shoot
across the night sky.
"Preliminary reports indicate it was from a meteor. We know it wasn't man-made,
and we had no reports that it hit ground," Kucharek said.
Kucharek added that there was not a meteor "shower," as some have said.
"People will say its a shower, when it's just one," Kucharek said.
Local law enforcement officials in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri received
calls throughout the night of airplane-sized balls of fire falling from the sky.
"One lady thought it was a plane crash and saw two pieces coming down," said
J.J. Minshall, a dispatcher with the Dallas County Sheriff's Office. "We had about
four people call in, saying they saw a big orange flash in the sky."
A Dallas County sheriff's deputy was sent to patrol the county for a potential
crash site, and the Iowa State Patrol contacted local airports to make sure there
were no missing aircraft.
"It was quite the night," Minshall said. "In my nine years of working dispatch, I've
never had a call like that."
Joe Eitter, manager of Iowa State University's Erwin Fick Observatory, said
no major meteor showers were expected in the northern hemisphere, but a minor
shower may have sent a meteor into the atmosphere.
"It had to be a fairly large object to be that bright," Eitter said, adding Sunday
night's event was a "pleasant surprise."
"It's not something that happens that often. They're pretty rare," he said.
A meteor shower is expected near the end of the month, peaking Feb. 26.
"You'll want to get out your telescope," Eitter said.
Reporter Tom Barton can be reached at (515) 284-8065 or [email protected]
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