'Sonic Boom'

This is where the Missouri meteor likely landed... and other curiosities explained

The Missouri meteor was traveling 44,000 mph and was no small pebble.

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ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- After residents of several states saw a fireball streaking across the Missouri sky Monday night, a lot of questions popped up.

Tuesday, some answers are starting to surface.

Washington University assistant professor of physics Ryan Ogliore studies meteorites, and he gave News 4 a full picture of just what residents saw.

First, this was no pebble.

"When it was entering the earth's atmosphere I would say it was five feet [across] or so,” Ogliore said. “It's hard to tell, it depends on the density of the object and the exact speed it's going."

The meteor, which was seen by people in eight different states, is believed to have entered the atmosphere somewhere over Troy, Missouri.

It's estimated the meteor was traveling more than 44,000 miles per hour, which is much, much faster than the speed of sound (around 770 MPH). The result was a massive boom across the sky.

"That was a sonic boom. As the thing was entering the atmosphere it was moving much faster than the speed of sound so that was a sonic boom from a relatively large object crashing through the atmosphere," Olgiore explained.

Then there was the bright flash everyone saw.

The meteor was going so fast that the pressure of the air against the rock created so much heat, the outer layers were quickly vaporized.

The color given off gives scientists like Ogliore an idea of what the meteor was made of.

And despite a lot of the material burning away, the assistant professor believes some of the space traveler made it to the ground.

"A lot of these large meteoroids do have a lot of material that makes it to the ground. I'd say 80-90 percent of the material probably vaporized in the atmosphere during what we all saw,” he said.

So where did it land?

According to calculations, Ogliore believes the meteor traveled about 30-40 miles west before slowing down enough to stop burning and fall to the ground around Wellsville.

"I have a colleague at NASA who actually uses Doppler weather radar to track, instead of falling raindrops, falling rocks from events like this. And he has an idea where it might be," Ogliore said.

He said it won't be easy finding one particular rock out in the countryside of Missouri, but in his line of work it's definitely worth the effort.

If a meteor survives the plunge through the atmosphere and lands on the surface it is known as a meteorite.

In fact, the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum is offering a $25,000 reward to the first person to find one kilogram of the meteorite. Located in Bethel, Maine, the museum says it is home to the largest piece of the Moon to exist on Earth.

The Smithsonian says one person has been hit by a meteorite. It happened on Nov. 30, 1954, in Sylacauga, Alabama. They say Ann Hodges was napping when the meteorite came through her ceiling and bounced off a radio before hitting her thigh. 

Copyright 2019 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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