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Purdue professor: Meteor caused explosion-like noise

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The explosion many people across Indiana heard on Wednesday afternoon was caused by meteor entering the earth’s atmosphere, a Purdue University professor believes.

Brandon Johnson, an associate professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, says that an event like Wednesday’s is not the norm for Indiana. For that fact, he added, it’s rare when we get to hear or see a meteor make such a spectacular entrance. 

“It is pretty uncommon to have an air blast that is large enough to make a loud explosion-type sound. It does happen from time to time. Usually, it happens over the ocean or unpopulated areas, so sometimes it happens where people are around,” Johnson said. 

Since it was overcast Wednesday, no video has been found so far of the actual fireball coming through the atmosphere.

Reports submitted from Bloomington and Columbus to the American Meteor Society say the meteor was headed north when it entered the atmosphere.

With limited information, Johnson says the meteor was probably 3 feet wide, but it’s tough to say what it was made of. “I would think something like a big boulder, not the size of a school bus, but maybe the smallest car you have ever seen,” Johnson said.

With cameras, sensors and satellites monitoring the globe, one would think something would have picked up this meteor. Johnson says a system of microphones monitors the atmosphere for explosions, such as nuclear explosions, but the event was too far away from the nearest detection system.  

When the meteor hit the earth’s atmosphere, the professor says, it was like it hitting a brick wall, breaking the rock into much smaller pieces. Those fragments most likely fell to Earth on the Indiana soil, possibly giving the professor an opportunity for some work in the field to find the meteor.  

“I mean, if the trajectory firms up, it might be something we’ll do,” Johnson said.

Anyone with video or any type of recording of Wednesday’s explosion can send it to the American Meteor Society. They have a detailed reporting system on their website