Part of the sky literally fell last night when a 10-pound meteor exploded about 53 miles over Vermont with the force of 440 pounds of dynamite. The natural fireworks display, which took place around 5:40 p.m. EST yesterday evening, was witnessed by over 100 people who reportedly felt a shockwave on the ground.
"As the object (which was likely a fragment of an asteroid) penetrated deeper into the atmosphere, pressure built up on its front while a partial vacuum formed behind it," NASA Meteor Watch wrote on Facebook, adding that the meteor was moving at over 42,000 miles per hour. "About 30 miles up, the pressure difference between front and back exceeded its structural strength. The space rock fragmented violently, producing a pressure wave that rattled buildings and generated the sound heard by those near the trajectory. Such a pressure wave can also couple into the ground, causing minor "tremors" that can be picked up by seismic instruments in the area; the wave itself can be detected by infrasound (low frequency sound that can travel great distances) stations."
According to social media comments, the meteor was seen as far up as Quebec, Canada. Luckily, no one went blind from the explosion and what’s more: no vicious plant monsters took over the world (à la Day of the Triffids). "We heard a sonic boom followed by a dwindling rumble come from north by north east from here in the north east corner of Bristol," CJ Hudson wrote on Facebook. "I thought it sounded a little abnormal. Interesting explanation!"
"Heard it in Essex, VT!" said Misty Dawn. "My son was outside and said, ‘I felt it run up my back and in my stomach. The car rattled under the vibration of the shock wave.’"