A bright fireball in the sky was visible over much of the Midwest late Thursday afternoon. Experts do not yet have a definite explanation for the atmospheric phenomenon that occurred across Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Nebraska and was visible for almost 20 minutes.

Fireball Viewed By Thousands Across Midwest

Fifth most-reported fireball

The American Meteor Society received more than 600 calls about the Midwest fireball in just a 14 hour period on Thursday. That makes this fireball incident the fifth-most reported fireball since the AMS started their public reporting-based online tracking system several years ago.

National Weather Service statement

National Weather Service administrator Kurt Kotenberg said the agency was aware of the incident. “We’re looking at the reports, also. The interesting thing about it, Venus was visible in the sky just after sunset,” Kotenberg said. He elaborated NWS would not be conducting a formal investigation into the exact cause of the fireball because it occurred in the upper atmosphere. Given the object observed was “not a weather phenomenon,” no formal report will be made.

Possible explanations

Astronomers and other scientific experts suggested the fireball was most a likely a meteor or a relatively large piece of space debris. Exactly what the object was is only likely to be determined if significant material survived the atmospheric plummet and fell to the Earth.

University of Iowa physics and astronomy professor Steven Spangler commented that although December is not a prominent meteor shower time, “sporadic meteors” can occur at any time and anywhere.

Recent similar events

On August 28 of this year, a huge fireball was seen across northern Georgia and Tennessee in the early morning. It was later determined that the fireball was produced by a meteor approximately two feet in diameter, weighing around 100 pounds and moving at over 56,000 miles per hour.

Around 9 pm central time on September 21, 2013, a greenish ball of light was seen by hundreds of people from Meridian, Oklahoma to San Antonio, Texas. The AMS recorded 76 reports of that fireball, and most reports claimed the fireball was large and appeared to be moving across the horizon relatively close to the ground.

Also See: As The Risk Of Meteor Strike Rises, How Can Earth Avoid Destruction?