Meteor explodes in Pittsburgh, PA, Weather Service and NASA say

January 3, 2022
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On New Year’s Day last Saturday, people in southwestern Pennsylvania heard a loud explosion at around 11:20 a.m. EST.

An initial tweet by the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh last Saturday afternoon said that the “most likely explanation at this time” was the loud boom was actually a “meteor explosion.”

People all over Pittsburgh took to social media, saying the boom was incredibly loud and shook their house. Others posted footage capturing the crackling sounds of the explosion.

The National Weather Service Pittsburgh noticed a flash captured by their satellite’s Geostationary Lightning Mapper function in Washington County, a neighboring county of Pittsburgh.

“This flash does not appear to be connected to any lightning activity in the area. One possible explanation is that a meteor exploded at some level above the ground,” said the National Weather Service Pittsburgh in a Saturday post on Facebook.

On Monday, meteorologist Myranda Fullerton of National Weather Service Pittsburgh confirmed with USA TODAY that the flash was indeed a meteor, according to NASA.

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A Facebook post from NASA Meteor Watch said that a “nearby infrasound station registered the blast wave from the meteor as it broke apart.”

The energy of the explosion was equivalent to “30 tons of TNT” and the meteor was likely about a yard in diameter with a mass of close to half a ton, according to estimates by NASA.

If it wasn’t so cloudy, the meteor would have been blindingly bright, with crude estimates from NASA indicating that the meteor was 100 times the brightness of the full moon.

You can reach the author @michelle_shen10 on Twitter. 


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