Exploding meteor rocked Pittsburgh on New Year’s Day, NASA confirms

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — An exploding meteor that rattled the greater Pittsburgh area on New Year’s Day expelled energy commensurate with roughly 30 tons of TNT, NASA has confirmed.

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The explosion, which some area residents said was strong enough to shake their homes, occurred when a meteor estimated to be roughly 3 feet in diameter exploded in the atmosphere just before noon, NASA Meteor Watch posted to Facebook late Sunday.

Update on the New Year’s Day bolide over Pennsylvania A nearby infrasound station registered the blast wave from the...

Posted by NASA Meteor Watch on Sunday, January 2, 2022

According to WPXI, the National Weather Service initially ruled out an earthquake, thunder and lightning as potential sources of the boom, noting that an exploding meteor seemed the most likely culprit.

“It could happen over the ocean. It could happen anywhere. You can’t really predict when they happen, but that’s all we can give as an explanation of why was that happening,” NWS meteorologist Shannon Hefferan told the TV station, which began fielding calls at around 11:30 a.m. Saturday from inquisitive viewers.

According to NASA Meteor Watch, a nearby infrasound station registered the blast wave from the meteor as it broke apart, estimating the energy expulsion to be on par with roughly 60,000 pounds of TNT, WPXI reported.

The measurements also indicated that the meteor weighed close to 1,000 pounds and was traveling an estimated 45,000 miles per hour, the TV station reported.

If not for the cloudy weather, NASA said, it would have been easily visible in the daytime sky — maybe about 100 times the brightness of the full moon.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.