Caught Speeding: Illinois Patrol Cop Spies Blazing Fireball (Video)

An Illinois police officer on a routine trip earlier this month saw a fireball suddenly light up the sky in front of the car's dashboard camera. The resulting Facebook video, posted May 11, is the most popular clip for the Woodridge Police Department yet, a spokesperson said.

According to the post, Sgt. Chrusciel was near the 75th St./Interstate 355 intersection facing east when the fireball appeared, cruising across the sky from left to right. While the fireball was bright, the police officer's view was lucky. The city "did not receive any reports. The meteor occurred early in the morning, and many people were likely sleeping," said Jim Hoff, a Village of Woodridge management analyst, in an email interview with Space.com.

The police department put the dashcam video on Facebook at 5:42 a.m. local time (6:42 a.m. EDT or 1042 GMT), then added it to the department Twitter account, Hoff said. "The meteor video reached more than 40,000 people on Facebook, making it our most viewed video."

Fireballs occur when space rocks enter the Earth's atmosphere. In most cases, the entering object completely burns up before reaching the ground. Larger objects can produce fragments, however; any pieces on the ground are called meteorites.

NASA is on the hunt for larger space rocks that could pose a threat to life on Earth, but so far, the agency's Planetary Defense Coordination Office has not identified any imminent threats. 

Larger fireballs are rare, but when they do happen, they can cause extensive damage. A prominent example was the 2013 Chelyabinsk event, in which a meteor the size of a six-story building broke up over a town in Russia. The pressure wave during the meteor's descent shattered glass and injured more than 1,000 people.

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