Exploding New Year's Day meteor released the equivalent of 30 tons of TNT over Pennsylvania


Scientists have released a size and mass estimate of an exploding meteor believed to have caused a loud boom and shaking of the ground across portions of suburban Pittsburgh on New Year's Day.

NASA's Meteor Watch social media site says a nearby infrasound station registered the blast wave from the meteor as it broke apart — and the data enabled an estimate of the energy released as equivalent to 30 tons of TNT.

Officials said a “reasonable assumption" of the speed of the meteor at about 45,000 miles per hour would allow a “ballpark" estimate of its size as about a yard in diameter with a mass close to half a ton.

If not for the cloudy weather, they said, it would have been easily visible in the daytime sky — maybe about 100 times the brightness of the full moon.

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National Weather Service meteorologist Shannon Hefferan told the Tribune-Review that satellite data recorded a flash over Washington County shortly before 11:30 a.m. Saturday and officials believed it was due to a meteor “falling through the atmosphere.” Hefferan said a similar event occurred Sept. 17 in Hardy County, West Virginia.

Residents in South Hills and other areas reported hearing a loud noise and feeling their homes shaking and rattling. Allegheny County officials said they had confirmed that there was no seismic activity and no thunder and lightning.