May 1, 2012

NASA has released this photograph of a flaming meteor that unleashed a powerful sonic boom last week, rattling houses in California and Nevada. The meteor broke up as it traveled through our atmosphere, releasing the same amount of energy as if there had been a 5-kiloton explosion!

A sonic boom is an explosive sound caused by the shock wave of an object traveling faster than the speed of sound. The explosion was big enough to rattle windows, causes many Californians to think they had had an earthquake.

"An event of this size might happen about once a year," said Don Yeomans from NASA. "But most of them occur over the ocean or an uninhabited area, so getting to see one is something special."

 

Who can tell me why most of these meteor explosions happen over the ocean, rather than over land where we can see them? Hint: Think about the big, blue ball that is our Earth…...

Answer: Brian B., one of our readers, was onto the right idea. Most meteors explode over the ocean because oceans make up 71% of Earth’s surface. That means that most atmospheric events are likely to happen over the ocean, simply because there is so much of it.

 

Photo: Lisa Warren / NASA-JPL via AP

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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