PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh region started off 2022 with a boom and now we may know the answer.
Calls and emails flooded the Channel 11 newsroom around 11:30 Saturday morning from the North Hills to Carnegie, to the South Hills, Greensburg, Westmoreland County and beyond, people shared on social media their experiences witnessing the boom. Some posts said the boom shook people’s houses.
The National Weather Service initially said the boom was not an earthquake, and thunder and lightning were ruled out as a possible cause.
The organization’s theory was a meteor that entered the atmosphere and exploded.
“It could happen over the ocean, it could happen anywhere. You can’t really predict when they happen, but that’s all we can give as an explanation of why was that happening,” said NWS meteorologist Shannon Hefferan.
The NWS said a satellite loop captured activity over Washington County that likely showed the meteor.
On Sunday night, NASA Meteor Watch posted an update on the source: A nearby infrasound station registered the blast wave from the meteor as it broke apart; the data enabled an estimate of the energy at 30 tons of TNT.
A meteor explosion over West Virginia in September caused similar activity.
“We thought like that could have been a meteor falling through the atmosphere and exploding and that could, you know, create this flash and maybe a boom at the same time, so that’s probably what it was,” said Hefferan.
If it hadn’t been cloudy, the fireball would have been easily visible in the daylight sky, according to the Facebook post, and crude estimate indicates it would be about 100 times the brightness of the Full Moon.
Ballpark estimates are that the meteor was going 45,000 miles per hour, was a yard in diameter and likely weighed close to half a ton.
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