Monday, April 23, 2012

[californiadisasters] Sonic Boom Over Sierra Blamed on Annual Meteor Shower

Sonic boom over Sierra blamed on annual meteor shower

By Loretta Kalb
Published: Monday, Apr. 23, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2B
Last Modified: Monday, Apr. 23, 2012 - 6:45 am

The sound of a powerful explosion that punctuated the calm Sunday morning over a wide area of the Sierra Nevada in Northern California was the apparent result of the Lyrid meteor shower.

Craig Shoemaker, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Sacramento, said the meteor shower – a debris cloud left by the Thatcher comet as the debris makes its annual pass by Earth – is capable of producing fireballs and sonic booms when it enters the atmosphere "similar as a plane would make" when it crosses the sound barrier.

The Lyrid meteor shower was expected to peak Sunday and today, he said.

Georgann Wilmot, a resident on a mountain ridge east of Sutter Creek, told The Bee she heard a "tremendous explosion" that seemed protracted around 8:30 a.m. Sunday.

"It went on for a while," she said. "We heard one big one, and then there were other rumblings" that persisted and were reminiscent of thunder.

"At first I thought maybe it was an earthquake," she said.

A dispatcher for the Placer County Sheriff's Department said calls came in from Tehama County to Kern County.

The closest pass-by for Thatcher comet on record, Shoemaker said, was about 50 million kilometers in 1861, the year the comet was discovered by A.E. Thatcher.

The Lyrid meteor shower is named for the constellation Lyra because the meteors appear to emanate from that part of the sky.

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