A meteor that caused a roar over the Pittsburgh suburbs on New Year’s Day exploded in the atmosphere, with an energy equivalent to about 30 tons of TNT, according to the authorities.
NASA’s Meteor Watch social media site said late Sunday that a “reasonable assumption” of the meteor’s speed of about 45,000 mph would allow for a “rough” estimate of its size, three feet in diameter, with a mass close to half a ton.
NASA’s Meteor Watch later confirmed the meteor’s explosion in a Facebook post on Monday, saying that a nearby infrasound station recorded the meteor’s shock wave as it broke, causing sonic booms. The data allowed estimating that the energy released was equivalent to about 30 tons of TNT.
If it weren’t for the cloudy weather, NASA said, the meteorite would have been easily visible in the daytime sky, perhaps about 100 times the brightness of the full Moon.
A nearby infrasound station recorded the meteor’s shock wave as it broke, allowing estimates to be made.
Chris Leonardi, a meteorologist with the Pittsburgh-based Weather Service, said it was thought a meteor “exploded or vaporized”, as reported by The New York Times.
Meteor “falling through the atmosphere”
Also a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, Shannon Hefferan, told the Tribune-Review that satellite data recorded a flash over Washington County shortly before 11:30 am Saturday and that authorities believed it was due to a meteor “falling through the atmosphere.”
Hefferan said a similar event occurred on Sept. 17 in Hardy County, West Virginia.
Residents of the South Hills and other areas reported hearing a loud noise and felt their homes shake and rattle. Allegheny County authorities said they had confirmed no seismic activity, no thunder or lightning.
Meteorite? Asteroid? What is the difference?
According to NASA, an asteroid is a small rocky object, smaller than a planet, that orbits the Sun.
Meteoroids, meanwhile, are much smaller than asteroids. A meteor, according to the space agency explains, is what happens when a meteoroid, a small piece of asteroid or comet, burns up as it enters Earth’s atmosphere, creating a streak of light in the sky.
With information from DW.
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