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NASA says the ‘boom’ and shaking Friday morning a fireball

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 1:30 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2021 at 9:22 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Numerous reports came in all across the area Friday morning, September 17 of a ‘boom’ and ground shaking.

NASA says this was a fireball exploding over the area. Power outages were also reported in Hardy County.

Initial reports came in as a possible explosion in Shenandoah County but no explosion was found. Suspicions then turned to a possible earthquake. Dozens of earthquake reports were sent to Volcanodiscovery.com however an earthquake was not reported by the USGS.

Satellite data did pick up on lightning flashes over Hardy County around 10:30 a.m. and there were no storms in the area. This tells us that something came from the sky, and that something was a very large meteor. One that’s called a bolite.

WTOP Space reporter Greg Redfern says that a fireball is a large meteor that’s brighter than the planet Venus.

A bolide, is a fireball that explodes. This bolide Friday morning likely had two explosions.

WHSV Chief Meteorologist Aubrey Urbanowicz spoke with NASA Meteoroid Environment Program Manager Bill Cooke. Cooke says daytime meteor events area very rare and they depend on eyewitness reports and meteor cameras.

The problem with eyewitness reports this morning was that it was very cloudy and viewing was obscured. With meteor cameras, they are turned off during the daytime hours to protect the cameras from the sunlight.

A pilot did report to the American Meteor Society that himself and the Co-pilot witnessed the meteor at 36,000 feet.

Cooke researched the data from this morning and says that the brightness of the meteor would likely be about as bright as the moon. (Brightness not size).

According to Cooke, “This corresponds to an energy between 1 and 2 tons of TNT, which gives a mass of around 50 pounds (25 kilograms) for the object causing the fireball (assuming a typical speed of 45,000 miles per hour). It is possible that this event produced meteorites somewhere in the northern Virginia/eastern West Virginia area.”

Did you know in 1869, three iron meteorites were found in Staunton? These three were all found in different locations around Staunton.

When you click on that link above, click the link for: Entry for Staunton, volume 3, page 1166 for more details on the meteorites.

NASA is still investigating the event from September 17th according to their meteoroid Facebook page. They are looking for more reports and will continue to update.

This image below is the flash data from satellite that was picked up over Hardy County corresponding to the fireball.

Satellite data picked up on lightning flashes over Hardy county Friday morning yet there were...
Satellite data picked up on lightning flashes over Hardy county Friday morning yet there were no storms. This is why we think a meteor strike is possible.(whsv)

This video is from Sandra Dickerson in West Virginia and is the only video we have of the actual flash in the sky. Watch for the flashes at the beginning and then a second flash at 7 seconds.

If you do have surveillance video we would appreciate you checking it out from Friday, September 17 around 10:25 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. to see if you may have captured something on video.

If you so have videos, you can upload them here:

If you saw something in the sky this morning or know of someone who may have seen something, you can report it to the American Meteor society.

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