The fireball, which NASA said was most likely an asteroid fragment, traveled about 42,000 miles per hour

By Rachel DeSantis
March 09, 2021 12:18 PM
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A bright fireball traveling about 42,000 miles per hour hurtled through the sky above Vermont on Sunday night, rattling buildings and sending off a loud boom.

NASA Meteor Watch said the object was most likely a fragment of an asteroid, and appeared about 52 miles above Mount Mansfield State Forest around 5:38 p.m. EST. It was seen by more than 100 people in Vermont and in Canada.

It traveled deep into the atmosphere as pressure built on its front, and a partial vacuum formed behind it, creating a pressure difference that became greater than its structural strength.

"The space rock fragmented violently, producing a pressure wave that rattled buildings and generated the sound heard by those near the trajectory," NASA said in a Facebook post.

According to NASA, such a wave of pressure can cause minor tremors in the ground, and in this case, infrasound measurements helped scientists determine that the object weighed about 10 lbs., and had a diameter of 6 inches.

"A nice little firework, courtesy of Mother Nature," NASA said.

Many people in the comments section of NASA's post reported seeing the fireball, and some said they were initially confused as to what it was.

"I thought it was a missile," one woman wrote. "Almost [in the] blink of an eye [it was] gone. So very awesome that I was able to see it."

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Another witness said he saw it from his window in Colchester, and that he heard a sonic boom about 90 seconds later.

"It was super bright white and broke up into a few pieces," he wrote.

About eight miles away in South Burlington, however, Al Gregoritsch told NBC affiliate WPTZ that he saw it, but did not hear any sound.

"I was very excited to see it," Gregoritsch said. "It's a phenomenon I will never forget."

NASA said that the object traveled for 33 miles through the upper atmosphere before it burned up above Beach Hill in Orleans County.