A rare daylight meteor streaked across the sky over Nevada and California on Sunday morning, shaking millions of homes with a sonic boom
SACRAMENTO, CA -- Residents along a 600-mile stretch from northern Nevada to parts of California were shaken awake by a loud explosion and a bright streak of light shooting across the sky on Sunday morning.
Panic 911 calls
911 emergency call centres in both states were flooded with calls from residents reporting fireball sightings and a loud explosion.
Some residents reported seeing a giant fireball with a green body and red head streaking across the sky.
Unusual meteor display
Astronomers say the unusual display was probably a meteor which entered the Earth's atmosphere and may even have hit the ground. The loud explosion was caused by a sonic boom as the meteor shot through the lower atmosphere faster than the speed of sound while breaking up.
"From the reports, I have no doubt it was a fireball," said Robert Lunsford of the Geneseo, N.Y.-based American Meteor Society. "It happens all the time, but most are in daytime and are missed. This one was extraordinarily bright in the daylight."
Speaking to the Associated Press, Lunsford confirmed it is "pretty rare" for fireballs to produce a loud explosion. For that to happen, he explained, the meteor would have had to reach the lower atmosphere at an altitude of 5 miles or lower. Most visible meteors disintegrate at an altitude of 50 miles or above.
Sightings in Nevada and California
Sightings occurred over roughly a 600-mile line across the two states, including Reno, Elko and North Las Vegas in Nevada, and the San Francisco, Sacramento and Bakersfield areas in California.
Meteor was "size of a washing machine"
Experts say the meteor was likely to be roughly the size of a washing machine.
Lyrid meteor shower
Interestingly, the meteor show coincided with the Lyrid meteor shower which peaked over the weekend. The annual meteor shower is caused by Earth passing through debris left behind by comet Thatcher in 1861 as it orbits the sun. Experts, however, are divided on whether the event occured due to the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower or was purely coincidental.