Fireball in the sky captures attention across the region

    Newschannel 3 photographer Zach Lawler caught the fireball falling through a dashboard camera Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, while he was returning from an assignment. (WWMT)

    Dozens of Kalamazoo area residents were among the hundreds across a several state area that witnessed a huge flash in the night sky in southern Michigan.

    "I just saw a big ol' ball of fire falling, and I started screaming," said Barbara Dwyer of Decatur, Michigan, who saw it just after 8 p.m., as she was looking toward Kalamazoo. "It scared the heck out of me."

    Witnesses across the state began detailing their experiences on Twitter. The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office and the Calhoun County Dispatch office both said they’ve been fielding numerous calls about a fireball in the sky.

    About an hour later, the National Weather Service Detroit said it likely was a meteorite, revealing the information in a Twitter post.

    But area residents were certainly startled by the event.

    "The big ball was all circled in red," Dwyer said. "It was really weird that was the first time I every say anything like that."

    "I just saw a big ol' ball of fire falling, and I started screaming," Dwyer said. "The arrow that followed behind was outlined, like in red. Like a big ball of flames shooting across the sky."

    "I've seen meteor showers. It didn't look like a meteor. it just looked like a ball of fire flying across the sky. It had a tail on it."

    An hour after it appeared the American Meteorological Society website apparently crashed, leaving behind this message:

    "Major event in Michigan. Server is getting overloaded. We'll be back asap, check back soon. If you saw the fireball report it here:"

    Kalamazoo Astronomer Richard Bell says a meteor is basically a small chunk of rock or metal that enters the earth's atmosphere and starts to burn up. It makes for a pretty sight at night when the skies are clear, which is rare this time of year.

    Bell explained more about how a meteor is formed.

    "A meteoroid is basically a small chunk of rock or metal enters the atmosphere and in front of it, it compresses the gases of our atmosphere. The heated gas vaporizes the meteoroid and when that happens we refer to it as a meteor."

    Bell says meteor mostly likely burned up in the atmosphere.

    The USGS says the meteor was about a two on a scale of one to 10 and likely burned up somewhere near New Haven, Michigan.

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