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NASA says ‘boom’ and shaking in Virginia was a fireball

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 9:56 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2021 at 9:58 PM CDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV/Gray News) - Numerous reports came in across the Harrisonburg, Virginia, area Friday morning of a “boom” and ground shaking.

NASA said it was a fireball exploding in the sky. Power outages were also reported in Hardy County.

Initial reports came in as a possible explosion in Shenandoah County, but no explosion was found.

WHSV reported that suspicions then turned to a possible earthquake. Dozens of earthquake reports were sent to Volcanodiscovery.com, but an earthquake was not reported by the USGS.

Satellite data picked up on lightning flashes over Hardy County around 10:30 a.m., but there were no storms in the area.

This indicated something came from the sky, and that something was a large meteor that exploded, called a bolide.

WHSV Chief Meteorologist Aubrey Urbanowicz spoke with NASA Meteoroid Environment Program Manager Bill Cooke.

Cooke says daytime meteor events are rare, and they depend on eyewitness reports.

The problem with eyewitness reports was that it was cloudy and viewing was obscured. Meteor cameras are turned off during the daytime hours to protect them from the sunlight.

A pilot reported to the American Meteor Society that he and the co-pilot witnessed the meteor at 36,000 feet.

Cooke researched the data and said the meteor was likely about as bright as the moon.

“This corresponds to an energy between one and two tons of TNT, which gives a mass of around 50 pounds (25 kilograms) for the object causing the fireball (assuming a typical speed of 45,000 miles per hour),” Cooke said. “It is possible that this event produced meteorites somewhere in the northern Virginia/eastern West Virginia area.”

NASA is still investigating the event from Sept. 17, according to their meteoroid Facebook page. They are looking for more reports and will continue to update.

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