How to Find the Michigan Meteor: Top Tips to Hunt Down a Fragment

1_18_Michigan Meteor
The meteor lit up skies across Michigan and further afield. Kevin McCombs/Social Media/Reuters

Updated | A blazing meteor on Tuesday night rocked Michigan. An intense flash of light stunned residents, and a loud boom shook local buildings.

A meteor had ripped through the skies above the state, with more than 355 sightings reported across six more—plus Ontario—according to the American Meteor Society (AMS).

A NASA meteor camera recorded the event at Oberlin College in Ohio. The video was posted to the NASA Meteor Watch Facebook page.

There was a VERY bright fireball (possible superbolide, which has a brightness between that of the Full Moon and the Sun) seen in the Michigan, Ohio,...

The rock likely disintegrated into lots of smaller pebbles, called "meteorites," which scattered to the ground as the meteor fell apart.

NASA shared an image of the possible trajectory of the meteor, based on eyewitness testimonies sent to AMS. "It is likely that there are meteorites on the ground near this region," read the Facebook photo caption. "One of our colleagues at [the Johnson Space Center] has found a Doppler weather radar signature characteristic of meteoritic material falling to earth."

Local meteorologist Paul Gross recommended getting your hands on a metal detector in an article on news website ClickOnDetroit. Armed, you should head to Livingston County or eastern Ingham County.

If you spy a suspicious-looking pebble, you can narrow down its origin by doing a few simple things. Gross listed three steps to test if a hunk of rock could actually have come from space. First, he wrote: "If it's much heavier than you would otherwise expect, then that's a good sign!"

Next, you should test your hunks of rock for magnetism, as meteorites usually contain iron. Gross wrote in a Twitter post: "If you think you found one and it passes the magnetic test, let me know!"

NASA is also saying that pieces may have made it to the ground west of Howell. If you go searching, use a metal detector...meteorites have metal in them. Also, they’re magnetic. If you think you found one and it passes the magnetic test, let me know!

— Paul Gross (@PGLocal4) January 17, 2018

For step three, Gross recommended rubbing the rock on a rough surface, such as the underside of a toilet tank lid. "Scratch the rock on there and, if it leaves a dark streak, then it's probably not a meteorite. However, if the streak is light or faint, then you might have one."

The only way to know for sure if a rock comes from space is to get a scientist to check it, Gross wrote.

University of Michigan Astronomy Department Chair Edwin Bergin explained the scientific significance of these rocks to Newsweek: "The pieces that are somewhere in Michigan right now, they're left over from the formation of planets ... They didn't make it into a planet like the Earth, so they can tell you something about the history of what happened before the Earth existed. We can use them to track where the water came from, where the carbon came from, to understand our own origins."

Michael Narlock, head of astronomy at the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, told The Detroit News meteorite hunters have a tall task on their hands. "It's just going to be a challenge," he said. "The ground is covered in snow, and chances are, any chunks got covered by snow. But if you're lucky, they hit in an area that's easy to access in an open field."

This article has been updated to include comment from Edwin Bergin.