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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 (opens in new tab) (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 (opens in new tab), or "shooting star" phase. If any fragments make it to the ground, which is unlikely, those little pieces are called meteorites (opens in new tab).

Video: Fireball burns up over Minnesota (opens in new tab)
Related:
5 Amazing fireballs caught on video (opens in new tab)

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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 (opens in new tab) and a falling meteor above suburban houses, taken using a Wyze video doorbell (opens in new tab). 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab).

Related: How often do big fireballs blaze up in Earth's sky? (opens in new tab)

Before you go searching for fragments of Sunday's fireball, consult Space.com's meteorite hunting guide (opens in new tab). 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.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.