2 Bright and Loud East Coast Fireballs

The past 10 days have seen 2 extremely bright fireballs over the East Coast of the US. Both fireballs also were accompanied by loud sonic booms.

The latest meteor occurred on Sunday night, March 29, at ~9:50 EDT. Observed from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, the fireball seems to have ended over the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area of southeast Virginia. A loud noise similar to an aircraft sonic boom or distant thunder was heard and felt ~2 minutes after the fireball last disrupted.

This event has been widely reported in the press. A Space.com article on the fireball can be found at Yahoo news. For a local take on the fireball see this story at WAVY-TV 10.

According to many press stories, the Naval Observatory is reporting that the fireball was caused by the reentry of part of a Russian Soyuz rocket booster. Last Thursday this rocket launched 1 American astronaut, 1 Russian Cosmonaut and an American paid passenger to the International Space Station. Reports from the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg AFB and the US Strategic Command both state that the fireball was not caused by the Soyuz booster and was most likely due to a small asteroid (see here and here).

Below is a map showing the location of some of the fireball reports. Yellow circles denote fireball sightings but no sound. Red circles are locations that heard sonic booms or concurrent noises. It is obvious from the maps that the fireball detonated over southeast Virginia.

mar29_va_fireball1

Little over a week earlier on March 20 at ~2:30-3:00 am EDT, another bright and loud fireball was seen and heard. As the map below shows, the fireball was seen over a 4 state area from Virginia to Georgia. Similar to the map above, red circles show were the fireball was heard. The concentration of sound reports in the Augusta area on the border of Georgia and South Carolina pinpoints where this fireball detonated.

mar20_sc_ga_fireball

[NOTE: This paragraph has been edited since it was originally posted.] There are 2 different ways a fireball can produce sound. The sound heard over southeast Virginia and the GA/SC border was a sonic boom caused by the fireball’s shock wave. This shock wave is the natural result of a fast moving solid object moving through the atmosphere. Since this usually occurs at a height of 20 or more miles it can take the sound a few minutes to travel to the observer. This is why the sound was heard ~2 minutes after the fireball was no longer visible.

The second way fireballs create sound is via EMF radiation. In this case, the high temperature fireball produces radiation at all wavelengths. Sometimes objects such as a metal frame or even a tree can convert the EMF waves into audible sounds. Since the EMF waves travel at the speed of light, these sounds can be heard at the exact same time the fireball is visible. It is possible these EMF sounds were heard by the March 20th fireball observer in Traxton, Virginia.

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About Carl Hergenrother
I am a professional astronomer specializing in the study of comets, asteroids and meteors. This blog will focus on my professional and amateur work in this field

11 Responses to 2 Bright and Loud East Coast Fireballs

  1. joanny says:

    somehow I cannot quite believe the very quick and pat response that it was from Russia with love — didn’t they just use that same tired excuse recently when the media released statement — that it was an old Russian Satellite that knocked out ours? Maybe it was — but still now —

    What is really going on in the sky? and where isn’t there any amateurs photographs available?

  2. Mary Tasker says:

    I find it very hard to believe that there would be 2 fireballs within 10 days of each other explode over the very same area. What are the chanced of that? What about reports of West Coast fireballs and the stelth fighter jet that ‘crashed’? Why are’nt the people of this country being told the truth about what really IS happening in our skies? Also, what about the hundreds of chemtrails in our skies everyday? Something is going on, and we have a right to know. Why isn’t someone getting info For us instead of spoon-feeding info To us? We’re not idiots…just not privy to the info, right?

  3. Erik Larson says:

    I saw a very large fireball falling roughly NNW-to-SSE at exactly the same time … in PA! I was driving south on I-83 near York, PA, when I saw it for a few seconds (not nearly enough time to take a picture) before it went below the horizon. I still am surprised no one else from that area seems to have reported it, as it was quite impressive. Checked the York/Harrisburg news sources yesterday morning, quite convinced I would find a story, but came up dry … ended up finding about this story much later in the day instead. Not sure if this is the same event, but suspect it is. So add PA to the list of states it was visible from …

    • Beau says:

      My son and I were driving East on route 3 in NJ just outside NYC about 10pm last night when we saw a fireball trace a slightly jagged line for a few seconds. It did not appear to go below the horizon, rather it seemed to be abruptly extinguished. The fireball had a greenish cast to it. We also thought it very impressive and are surprised to see no mention in the local news either

  4. Portia says:

    I live in canada, a Town called Almonte, west of Ottawa Ontario. Tuesday March 30 at about 10pm the power went out and the sky turned blue twice for about 5 seconds about 30 seconds apart. there was no sound at all, and the light was brighter than any lighting I have ever seen, not to mention that I have never seen the sky turn blue and stay blue with lighting. The power came back on a few hours later. this is the first place i have found other people who have written about this. Everyone who was awake and looking outside at the time in Almonte saw this and many people are trying to get answers but finding nothing

  5. PLT says:

    On March 31 – 10:30pm I saw something in the sky it was my first time seeing something like that. I’ve seen all kinds like comets, shooting stars and etc but nothing like what I saw. The color of it’s tail was greenish white. I’ve searched online to find out what it was but no avail.

  6. Angela Renee says:

    I more content with the idea that it is effects originating from experiments related to Tesla’s ideas conducted by the military in the 40’s.

    • Richard says:

      on April 3 about 9:pm 2009 i called 911,

      to report seing 6 big fire balls 5 seconds appart,
      faling from the sky. N betwent Kanata / aylmer its was so bright the ottawa river was bright,
      i saw that from my 10 floor of my bilding.

      i told them am sory you mite thing am crazy,

      911: respond no, your not the only one that called from ottawa,ontario,canada

      april 4, no news about it or not even in the paper.

      am so confused am curious to know what was that.

  7. Jeannie says:

    I was driving a truck during the night in either 1981 or 1982 through West Virginia. A huge fireball came from west to east across the top of the the mountain range. I had’nt seen anything like it before or since. It had a long firery tail and lit up the sky over the mountians. I grab the CB radio and ask the two truck divers ahead of me if they saw that. I was laughed at and told I’d better pull over and sleep. I’ve always wondered if there was any record amoung some star gazer somewhere that saw what I saw that night. It was truely an amazing thing to see.

    • Jeannie says:

      I am not very computer savey, so if you would post a reply on the blog rather than e-maill as previously ask it would be greatly appreicated. At this point I guess I might be repling to myselfand look pretty silly but I really am sincere about finding out about what I saw that night in Virginia. Thank you!

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