A loud explosion heard across much of Nevada and California rattled homes and prompted a flood of calls to law enforcement agencies on both sides of the Sierra Nevada mountains, some reporting fireball sightings.
The sound and the light show were likely caused by a meteor that entered Earth’s atmosphere yesterday, astronomers said.
“It made the shades in my room shake hard enough to slam into the window a couple times,” said Nicole Carlsen of the Reno area. “I kept looking for earthquake information, but (there was) nothing. I even checked the front of my house to make sure no one ran into the garage. I wish I had seen the meteor.”
Erin Girard-Hudson of Arnold, California, told The Union Democrat of Sonora, California, that the loud boom that occurred around 8 a.m. made her 2-year-old daughter, Elsie, cry.
“It knocked me off my feet and was shaking the house,” she said. “It sounded like it was next door.”
No damages or injuries were immediately reported. There were no reports of earthquakes at the time.
Some people reported seeing a brilliant light streak across the sky at the same time. Sightings occurred over roughly a 960-kilometre line across the two states, including Reno, Elko and North Las Vegas in Nevada, and the San Francisco, Sacramento and Bakersfield areas in California.
Astronomers said they believe the mysterious light was a fireball, which is a very bright meteor. It will take time to determine the path of the fireball and where it broke up, they added.
“From the reports, I have no doubt it was a fireball,” said Robert Lunsford of the Geneseo, New York-based American Meteor Society. “It happens all the time, but most are in daytime and are missed. This one was extraordinarily bright in the daylight.”
Lunsford said it’s “pretty rare” for fireballs to produce a loud explosion. For that to happen, he explained, the meteor must have survived intact until breaking up about five miles (eight kilometres) above Earth. Most fireballs are visible at 80 kilometres above Earth.