Meteor's appearance a hot topic

09 January 2005 | 15:28 Code : 4622 Geoscience events
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Seeing a meteor is a rare occurrence, although that could be what caught the attention of thousands of north central Wisconsin residents Tuesday night with a bright flash of light and explosive sound.
Seeing a meteor is a rare occurrence, although that could be what caught the attention of thousands of north central Wisconsin residents Tuesday night with a bright flash of light and explosive sound.
Astronomy buffs and residents were buzzing Wednesday about what they had heard and seen at about 6:15 p.m. the night before. And by early Wednesday, a story about the meteor report already was posted on meteoritecentral.com, a Web site that tracks occurrences all around the world.Experts and authorities say it likely was a meteor. Meteors pass through the atmosphere regularly, but most are too small to be noticeable.
Jim Lewis and his wife were eating dinner at their home in Merrill when they heard it.
He thought it was a sonic boom. She thought it was thunder. When they found out it likely was a meteor, they both wished they had seen it.
"I think it's kind of a hot item to talk about. It's very uncommon to see something and hear something that is this dramatic," said Lewis, who has been interested in astronomy for the past 60 years. He is a program coordinator with a Merrill group of amateur astronomers known as "Stars R Us."
The Lincoln County Sheriff's Department received its first call reporting the meteor from the town of Harrison. Reports then came in from all over the county and totaled 50 by the end of the night, the Sheriff's Department said. The Merrill Police Department and the Oneida, Taylor, Price, Portage, Marathon and Langlade county sheriff's departments all took calls from residents who had heard the boom or seen a flash of light.
Mike Breunling, chief meteorologist at WSAW-TV 7, said Tuesday evening that the noise and flash of light likely were not weather related. The National Weather Service could not find anything happening in the atmosphere that might have caused it, he said. The Federal Aviation Administration, which took a report from a pilot outside of Sioux Falls, S.D., about bright flashes of light, also ruled out aircraft problems or military flight tests.
Jim Lattis, the director of the University of Wisconsin Space Place in Madison, heard about the incident Wednesday morning on the radio.

"It's all consistent with a bright meteor," Lattis said. "I can't think, really, of any alternative."
Meteors will break apart and explode in the sky, which might have caused the booming noise, he said.
It's possible that pieces of the meteorite are scattered somewhere in central Wisconsin, Lattis said.
"They never really are found unless they hit something or land in someone's yard," he said. People who find meteorites can usually sell them, said Richard Slaughter, the director of the UW-Madison Geology Museum, which has five meteorites on display, including one that landed near Colby. The meteorites at the museum were found decades ago in Wisconsin.
"Meteorites are fairly hot commodities," he said.
Out of the thousands of meteorites that have fallen in Wisconsin throughout time, Slaughter estimated that only a few hundred have been found.


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