Science

Meteor explodes over Vermont with force of 440 pounds of TNT

Over the night sky of Vermont, a meteor streaked through on Sunday 7th March, creating a spectacular light show and shook the bones of people as it burned through the atmosphere. 

The meteor’s explosive trajectory through the atmosphere released the energy equivalent of 440 pounds or 200 kilograms of TNT, suggesting that the meteor was likely 4.5 kilograms massed and 0.15 meters in diameter, according to ‘NASA Meteor Watch’.

The space rock sliced the atmosphere, where it ignited itself due to atmospheric friction at about 68,000 km/h according to NASA. It appeared over the northern part of the state as a bright fireball at 5:38 p.m. EST, just before sunset. Local news stations reported calls from all over the state after the event, with Vermonters describing a “loud boom and body-rattling vibration” as the meteor passed overhead. Based on eyewitness accounts, NASA approximates that the fireball first appeared 84 kilometers over Mount Mansfield State Forest just east of Burlington, the state’s largest city. It then progressed 53 kilometers northeast towards the Canadian border, disappearing 53 kilometers above the ground south of the town of Newport.

The shock waves were a result of the meteor fracturing due to atmospheric pressure. As the bowling ball-size chunk of a larger parent asteroid moved primarily at nearly 18800 km/h, approximately 55 times the speed of sound through the atmosphere, the pressure built up in front of the rock and vacuum formed just beside it, hence forming the ‘Sonic-boom’. Eventually, the stress of that huge pressure difference caused the rock to explode.

“I was fortunate to hear and see it by the Missisquoi River at the Missisquoi Wildlife Refuge in Swanton, VT, just before sunset,” wrote ‘Chris Hrotic’, a commenter on NASA’s initial post about the event. “No loud boom as reported by others, but a rushing sound that made me look up at just the right moment. It was extremely bright and spectacular!” In comments on NASA’s initial Facebook post about the incident, people claimed to have seen the rock from as far west as Saratoga, New York, as far as Quebec, and as far east as Watertown, Massachusetts.

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ARTICLE: PATEL CHAITANYA

SCIENCE/HEALTH EDITOR: KYLE SMITH

PHOTO CREDITS: NEWSWEEK

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