NASA releases predictions about exploding meteor rocking Pittsburgh


PITTSBURGH — Scientists have released a size and mass estimate of an exploding meteor that is believed to have caused a loud explosion and shaking of the ground in suburban Pittsburgh on New Year’s Day.

NASA’s Meteor Watch social media site said a nearby infrared station recorded the meteor’s blast wave as it disintegrated, causing sonic booms. The data provided an estimate of the energy released, equivalent to 30 tonnes (27,216 kilograms) of TNT.

A “reasonable assumption” of the meteor’s velocity of about 45,000 mph (72,420 kph) would allow an estimate of its size, a “basketball” with a diameter of about a yard and a mass close to half a ton (454 kilograms), officials said.

They said that if it weren’t for cloudy weather, it would be easily visible in the daytime sky—perhaps about 100 times the brightness of the full moon.

National Weather Service meteorologist Shannon Hefferan told Tribune-Review that satellite data recorded a flare over Washington County shortly before 11:30 a.m. Saturday, and officials believe it was due to “a meteor falling from the atmosphere.” A similar incident occurred on September 17 in Hardy County, West Virginia, Hefferan said.

Residents in the South Hills and other areas reported hearing a loud noise and feeling their house swaying and shaking. Allegheny County officials said they have confirmed no seismic activity and no thunder and lightning.

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