Meteor fireball causes explosion in California and Nevada
Parts of Nevada and California experienced an explosion on Sunday morning associated with a meteor. The explosion occurred around 8 a.m., rattling windows and shaking houses from Reno to Winnemucca in Nevada, Sacremento to Bakersfield in California.
reports the boom set off alarms at the Wal-Mart in Carson City, was felt around the Tahoe basin and in California, as far north as Tehama County and as far south as Riverside County. Residents of Las Vegas also reported it.
The explosion sparked off several calls to law enforcement agencies in the two states. Many people said they saw a fireball streak across the sky when the explosion occurred.
Dan Ruby of the Fleischmann Planetarium at the University of Nevada, Reno, said reports indicate the meteor broke up in the Earth's atmosphere over Sierra southwest of Reno. According to Daily Mail
, meteorologists say when a meteor enters the atmosphere, it may create an explosion similar to the sonic boom of a fast moving plane.
According to Reno Gazette
, at first, many people thought there had been an earthquake. Witnesses from Winnemucca to Bakersfield, California, reported seeing a bright object streaking across the sky east to west with the "sonic boom" coming shortly after. An eyewitness Ellen Pillard, from old northwest Reno, said: “I was out at Patagonia (west Reno) hiking in the mountains, saw this great big white ball streaming across the sky to the west. Then it just disappeared. Then about 15 minutes later, I heard the boom. It was just amazing. I though maybe I was dreaming.”
reports an eyewitness said: "I was outside my apartment and saw a huge bright thing in the corner of my eye. I looked up and saw a huge bright ball with some sort of tail. It looked like it was about 100 yards away and it only lasted about two seconds before it went behind a hill that's close to my place. It was like nothing I've ever seen. It was crazy."
A police officer reported he saw a "weird, multi-colored comet, sparking and streaking toward the ground."
reports Robert Lunsford of the American Meteor Society, said: “From the reports, I have no doubt it was a fireball. It happens all the time, but most are in daytime and are missed. This one was extraordinarily bright in the daylight.”
Lunsford said it is unusual for fireballs to produce a loud explosion. He said the explosion was evidence the meteor survived intact on entering the atmosphere and broke up only about five miles above the Earth. He explained: “If you hear a sonic boom or loud explosion, that’s a good indication that some fragments may have reached the ground. We’ll have to get some people to work on it to pinpoint where it broke up and see if anything can be found on the ground.”
This weekend has seen heightened meteor activity. Daily Mail
reports the Lyrid meteor shower that comes once a year in late April was observed from the Earth. According to meteorologists, it happens when the Earth passes through the dust that Comet Thatcher leaves in its wake as it passes the Earth at a distance of more than 80 million miles.
But Ruby said the Comet Thatcher and the explosion over California and Nevada were unrelated. He said: “People are putting two and two together and saying it has something to do with the meteor shower. But the fireball was probably coincidental and unrelated to the peak of the meteor shower.”
Ruby said though the fireball was visible over a wide area, it was likely just "a little bigger than a washing machine."