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

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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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: