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Brilliant fireball spotted over Minnesota by doorbell cameras

A dazzling fireball lit up the skies above the Minneapolis-St. Paul area early Sunday morning (May 9), at 3 a.m. local time, according to reports.

The American Meteor Society's website received 39 reports about the fireball (including six videos and one photo), from observers in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Given the early morning hour of the fireball, many of these videos came from home surveillance cameras.

Fireballs are usually associated with tiny space rocks that enter the Earth's upper atmosphere and break up while they are streaking through, during their meteor, or "shooting star" phase. If any fragments make it to the ground, which is unlikely, those little pieces are called meteorites.

Video: Fireball burns up over Minnesota
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One of the automated videos uploaded to the society's website, taken from West Fargo (North Dakota), shows an extremely bright flash and a falling meteor above suburban houses, taken using a Wyze video doorbell. Viewers in the KARE 11 viewing region of Minnesota (including New Brighton, Prior Lake, Oakdale and Cokato) also sent several clips to the news outlet. 

"If you stayed up late enough until 3 a.m., you could have saw something fantastic," joked one of the newscasters in discussing the meteor, in a video posted on KARE 11's website.

"I want to invest in one of those Ring cameras, because you can capture stuff like this!" responded a second newscaster, speaking over footage of a blue flash spotted with a doorbell camera.

Fireballs are generally too small to produce sound or fragments large enough to reach the ground (most burn up in the atmosphere), but occasionally people get lucky. In March, a rare meteor was so bright over the United Kingdom and France that people nearby heard a sonic boom and could see the fireball in brighter skies. Earlier that month, searchers found a few meteorite fragments after another meteor sighting in the United Kingdom.

Related: How often do big fireballs blaze up in Earth's sky?

Before you go searching for fragments of Sunday's fireball, consult Space.com's meteorite hunting guide. Make sure you have permission to look on the relevant person or entity's land. If you happen to spot something space rock-like, handle it as little as possible (ideally using gloves if you must) and send it to a local meteorite researcher for analysis. Usually the researcher will ask to keep a bit of the sample as payment.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

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Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for Space.com who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is the author or co-author of several books on space exploration. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota in Space Studies, and an M.Sc. from the same department. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University in Canada, where she began her space-writing career in 2004. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level, and for government training schools. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @howellspace.