Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Meteor Produces Sound and Fury

A fiery meteor created a thundering explosion and traced a rare daylight fireball seen for about 600 miles across Nevada and California on Sunday, before apparently breaking up harmlessly at high altitude, astronomers said.
NASA researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said the midair explosion, centered over California's Central Valley east of the San Francisco Bay area, was the equivalent of the detonation of about 3.8 kilotons of TNT—about one quarter the energy released by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.
"The meteor was probably about the size of an SUV," said Donald Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif. "This was a big one. An event of this size might happen about once a year, but most of them occur over the ocean or an uninhabited area."
There were no reports Monday that any fragments of the object had reached the ground or caused any damage. No major telescope in the region tracked the early-morning fireball. NASA astronomers said the explosion might have been five to 10 miles high, which was high enough to let the sound spread widely. Read More