Hudson-area residents lucky enough to have been looking at the stars sometime before 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 3, were treated to what will no doubt be a once-in-a-lifetime sight.
Judging from reader comments on the Star-Observer's Web site, wwww.hudsonstarobserver.com, a rare meteor fireball passed over the community at a low altitude.
Michelle Judge, who lives about five miles east of Hudson on the south side of I-94, was returning to her house from doing chores in the barn when she saw the fireball.
"I could see the actual fire in a ball. It was very good-sized -- and it was totally quiet," Judge said when contacted by the Star-Observer, after reporting the sighting online.
Judge said the fireball traveled almost directly west at an altitude of what she thought wasn't more than a few hundred feet.
It disappeared over her field, Judge said, "and then the rumble came and the turkeys went crazy."
She was referring to the thunder-like sound that followed the meteor, as reported by numerous Star-Observer online readers.
The sound awoke and startled the wild turkeys roosting near her home, Judge said.
"Or it hit them," she joked. "We may have turkeys out there for dinner."
Judge said the ball was red and yellow in color.
"It was like I was looking right into my stove," she said.
It didn't have a tail, she said, and appeared to be a couple of feet in diameter.
"You would have had to see it to believe it. It was really something," said Judge, an information coordinator for Northwest Food Products in North Hudson.
Judge said her daughter was in the house taking a shower, but she heard the explosion, too.
The two were convinced that the meteor had crashed to earth nearby and went looking for evidence of it. They didn't find any.
Curtis and Ann Waterhouse were in the outdoor hot tub at their residence north of the Hudson Soccer Association complex on County UU when the fireball passed over.
Curtis was leaning back in the tub, gazing at the stars, and got the best view of it.
He said he saw what first appeared to be a falling star.
"When it hit the atmosphere it just lit everything up," Waterhouse said. "As it was crossing over you could see it was starting to break up. There were five or six tails all grouped together, flashing different colors, red out front and kind of bluish and white through the tails."
Waterhouse said he watched it perhaps two seconds before it dissipated.
"I thought for sure it landed in the cities somewhere," he said. "It just seemed incredibly close."
He said it was perhaps 30 seconds later that he heard soft rumbling in the distance, which he judged to be sonic booms from when the meteor entered the atmosphere.
Lisa Pierce, a resident of Prairie Meadows Drive just east of Badlands Sno-park in the town of Hudson, began the media coverage of the event by sending an e-mail to the Star-Observer asking if the newspaper knew what caused the flash of light and thundering sound.
She was inside her home when a flash of light came through the windows, followed by what sounded like an explosion.
Pierce said she first thought it was lightning, but then observed that the sky was clear.
Pierce's neighbors Michelle and Nathan Jacobson, and their children Emma and Sam, were delivering Girl Scout cookies and saw the meteor.
Dr. Eileen Korenic, an astronomy professor at UW-River Falls, said she believes people saw a meteor from the Pi Virginids shower enter the atmosphere, judging from the many similar reports.
Korenic said people who saw the fireball are extremely fortunate.
"It is very rare to see a fireball. Rarer still to hear one," she said. "Rarer still to see it coming out of the Pi Virginids, and at 8 o'clock at night."
"So lots of very rare things came together for those lucky people who saw it," Korenic said.
She said it's possible that fragments from the meteor reached the ground. But, usually, the pieces are so small that they're hard to find, she said.
Some fireballs are large enough to cause the air to expand when they enter the atmosphere, which produces the thunder, according to Korenic.
"It is quite rare. It sounds like a sonic boom for some people. It can actually get that loud," she said.
People from Clear Lake to Prescott witnessed the meteor, according to the Star-Observer Web site comments.