Meteorite Explodes Over Western United States

An photograph of the fireball seen April 22 accompanied by a sonic boom (Credits: Fox40).

At 8 AM local time on  April 22, a sonic boom resounded across large sections of California and Nevada, prompting calls to emergency centers across the states. Astronomers quickly identified the boom and a concurrent fireball as a meteorite exploding in Earth’s atmosphere.

“From the reports, I have no doubt it was a fireball,” said Robert Lunsford of the American Meteor Society. “It happens all the time, but most are in daytime and are missed. This one was extraordinarily bright in the daylight.”

People in the area felt houses and windows shake as a result of the explosion, causing many to think there was an earthquake. It is likely that some pieces of the meteorite reached the surface, although none have yet been located.  This meteorite must have come within 8 km of Earth’s surface before breaking up for the boom to be audible. Meteorite fireballs generally become visible about 80 km from the surface.

Some have speculated that the meteorite is related to the onging Lyrid meteor shower. Dan Ruby, associate director of the University of Nevada’s planetarium finds it unlikely: “People are putting two and two together and saying it has something to do with the meteor shower,” he said. “But the fireball was probably coincidental and unrelated to the peak of the meteor shower.”

Watch a news report on the April 22 event below:


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Merryl Azriel

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Having wandered into professional writing and editing after a decade in engineering, science, and management, Merryl now enjoys reintegrating the dichotomy by bringing space technology and policy within reach of an interested public. After three years as Space Safety Magazine’s Managing Editor, Merryl semi-retired to Visiting Contributor and manager of the campaign to bring the International Space Station collaboration to the attention of the Nobel Peace Prize committee. She keeps her pencil sharp as Proposal Manager for U.S. government contractor CSRA.

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