NASA experts at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Los Angeles have confirmed that the spectacular fireball witnessed by Susanville residents as it passed overhead Sunday morning was, in fact, an exploding meteor entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
Local Rancher Jeff Hemphill spotted the fireball as he was driving on Highway 139 above the college and described it as, “A greenish streak of light crossing from the northeast to the southwest.”
Hemphill’s description was shared by several of the lucky few who saw the fireball Sunday morning. Stacy Wilson was just leaving the grocery store when she noticed the meteor crossing over the Honey Lake Valley, “It was incredible, I thought maybe I was seeing things, ” she said.
JPL said the midair explosion, centered high over the Central Valley east of the San Francisco Bay, was the equivalent of the detonation of just under 4 tons of TNT.
The meteor, estimated by NASA to be the size of a mini-van and weighing 70 metric-tons, shredded itself in the atmosphere about five miles above the ground.
The rare daylight fireball and thundering explosions were seen, felt and heard along a nearly 600-mile swath of California and Nevada before disintegrating. According to NASA scientists the explosion was accompanied by long rumbling sonic booms as the earth-bound rock ground to a halt in the atmosphere.