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Loud ‘boom’ heard across northern Utah likely a meteor, NWS says

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A loud “boom” that some residents said was strong enough to shake their homes in its wake echoed across northern Utah early Saturday morning.

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While Salt Lake City-area residents speculated that everything from military activity to an earthquake could be responsible, the National Weather Service deduced that a meteor hurtling through the air was the culprit, KSTU reported.

Robert Lunsford with the American Meteor Society told the TV station that it is rare – but not unheard of – for a meteor to produce the auditory phenomenon.

“Your normal meteor is only the size of a pea or a small pebble. This particular object was probably the size of a beachball,” Lunsford said.

According to The New York Times, thunderstorms pummeled the area early Saturday but cleared out by sunrise, and the distinctive “boom” was heard around 8:30 a.m., sending both professional and amateur scientists scrambling to pinpoint the source.

The University of Utah Seismograph Stations, which monitors earthquake activity, quickly confirmed in a tweet that no seismic activity was recorded in proximity to the boom.

Others believed a training exercise at the Tooele Army Depot, a military base and storage facility near Salt Lake City, could be the source after a similar noise was reported in April when personnel at the army post detonated materials during “annual, planned exercises,” KTVX reported.

Meanwhile, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox confirmed to the Times that he heard the noise while out for a morning run and unequivocally ruled out military exercises, calling a meteor “likely the best theory.”

According to the National Weather Service, two “reddish pixels” were detected on a Geostationary Lightning Mapper, typically used to detect lightning. However, the Weather Service stated in a tweet that the pixels were not related to thunderstorms but were instead “likely the meteor trail/flash.”

In addition to the map, meteorologists also pointed to a video that surfaced of a bright streak streaking across the sky, the Times reported.

“We’ve now got video confirmation of the meteor heard across northern Utah, southern Idaho and elsewhere this morning,” the Weather Service tweeted.

According to the newspaper, Saturday morning’s suspected meteor coincided with the Perseid meteor shower, which peaked Thursday night into early Friday morning.

Duke Johnson with the Clark Planetarium offered KSTU a possible explanation based on the data available.

“You’ve got a big chunk of rock flying through space, and sometimes they even break up, and then you can get multiple booms, and I saw that the Weather Service did have two different blimps on the radar from this thing, so it appears that it may have broken up,” Johnson said,

That’s why, he said, when the meteor punched through earth’s atmosphere, it pushed on the sound waves, resulting in a boom, the TV station reported.

Johnson’s take was shared by the American Meteor Society’s Lunsford.

“Anything that surpasses the speed of sound, where the air is thick enough to carry sound waves, can create a sonic boom, and the only thing that really does that is lightning, a supersonic jet, and meteors,” he said.

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