Researchers seek insight from the January meteor in Michigan

DETROIT (AP) – Seismologists in Michigan study a meteor that exploded in the atmosphere above the state in January with the help of scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

The seismologists from the University of Michigan and the Californian scientists are publishing their combined data on Michigan's celestial event in a research paper, the Detroit Free Press reported. It is scheduled for publication later this month.

The findings can help researchers understand how often bolides, the name for meteors that explode in the atmosphere, are out of the sight of witnesses.

The January 17 meteor flooded small fragments to Earth near Livingston County's Hamburg Township west of Detroit. Witnesses watched the spectacular meteoric flash over the southern sky of Michigan. People in Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri and Ontario, Canada, also reported seeing the meteor.

It is rare for such large meteor events to occur in a densely populated area within the absorption capacity of different scientific instruments.

"This event fell in our lap, we studied something else," said Michael Hedlin, head of the Atmospheric Acoustics Laboratory at Scripps.

Hedlin's team conducted research into atmospheric gravitational waves with infrasound sensors in the eastern and central United States, which continuously record low-frequency sound. When the meteor made his sound wave, Hedlin knew he had a lot of infrasound data related to it.

Seismologist Jeroen Ritsema of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan did not expect him to study the event either. But he knew he could view constantly recorded seismic data from the region to find the eruption of the meteor.

Seismometers are sensitive and register the smallest ground movements, said Ritsema. He was able to follow the recording of the meteor's explosion on seven seismometers in Michigan, Ohio and Ontario.

Hedlin contacted Ritsema to combine their separate disciplines in a research project.

"We could (seismically) locate it in the exact same location where the infrasound was placed," Ritsema said.

The two research teams together confirmed the location where the car landed in the atmosphere above Michigan and the time of the explosion.

Buried in the collected data could be more new knowledge about bolide meteorite events, Hedlin said.

"They probably have a lot of secrets that we have not found yet," he said. "I want to know."

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