A fireball traveling at 42,000 miles per hour streaked across the night sky above Vermont on Sunday night, creating a spectacular light show. The meteor "fragmented so violently," it shook buildings across the state and produced a loud boom, NASA said.
NASA said on Facebook that over 100 eyewitnesses reported details of the meteor in Vermont around 5:38 p.m. ET. It first appeared about 52 miles above Mount Mansfield State Forest, moving 33 miles through the upper atmosphere, before burning up 33 miles above Beach Hill, in Orleans County.
It said the space rock was likely a fragment of an asteroid. It was so intense, it could be heard for miles, as it shook homes and cars.
"As the object penetrated deeper into the atmosphere, pressure built up on its front while a partial vacuum formed behind it. About 30 miles up, the pressure difference between front and back exceeded its structural strength," NASA Meteor Watch said. "The space rock fragmented violently, producing a pressure wave that rattled buildings and generated the sound heard by those near the trajectory."
Witnesses also reported tremors on the ground, which NASA attributed to a pressure difference.
"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," the space agency said.
Three nearby stations reported that the meteor released the energy equivalent of 440 pounds of TNT. Based on its speed and distance, scientists estimate the object weighed about 10 pounds, with a diameter of 6 inches.
One witness noted on Facebook that it sounded like "big trucks crashing" while another described feeling the house shake and hearing a "quick higher pitch shrieking."
Another Facebook commenter said they were thrilled to witness such a rare event, saying it was "extremely bright and absolutely spectacular!"
"A nice little firework, courtesy of Mother Nature," NASA said.
You called us from all over the state Sunday evening, reporting a loud boom and a body-rattling vibration. Well, we found out you were hearing and feeling a meteor hit the atmosphere! ☄️ pic.twitter.com/xlQtvwjYuF
— Christina Guessferd (@WCAX_Christina) March 8, 2021