It wasn't unclear if any pieces of the exploded meteor reached the ground. If fragments did land on Earth, officials say, they would likely be somewhere southwest of downtown Pittsburgh, Pa. File Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 6 -- The new year started off with an audible bang near Pittsburgh when the sound of a distant explosion echoed high in the sky, puzzling residents who were outside during the harmless blast.
Around 11:30 a.m. EST last Saturday, NOAA's GOES-16 weather satellite detected lightning over southeastern Pennsylvania, but there were no thunderstorms in the area to trigger a lightning flash. At the same time, people across the region reported a loud sound that was even picked up by some home security cameras.
Had it happened 12 hours earlier, the explosion may have been confused with fireworks being set off prematurely before the start of 2022, but scientists at NASA and NOAA believe that the sound did not originate from humans.
After looking over all of the data, NASA concluded that the explosion was caused by a meteor about 3 feet across and "with a mass close to half a ton" exploding as it entered Earth's atmosphere.
According to NASA, the meteor was traveling around 45,000 mph and exploded with the energy of 30 tons of TNT.
"Had it not been cloudy, the fireball would have been easily visible in the daylight sky," NASA said, adding that it would have been around 100 times brighter than a full moon.
It is unclear if any pieces of the space rock reached the ground, but if fragments did land on Earth, they would likely be somewhere southwest of Pittsburgh.
No damage or injuries were reported.
Meteor explosions like this are rare, but not completely unheard of. In mid-September, a similar event was detected over West Virginia when a meteor exploded over the region.
On Oct. 3, a woman in western Canada was startled awake by a meteorite that crashed through her house. The softball-sized rock came to rest in her bed, just inches away from where she was laying.
People who spot an incredibly bright meteor, sometimes referred to as a fireball, can file a report with the American Meteor Society. Fireballs are not always accompanied by a sonic boom, but can illuminate the entire sky for a few seconds in what is described as a "once in a lifetime event."
The International Space Station is pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a flyaround of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on November 8. Photo courtesy of NASA