Boom's Source A Mystery
Holt County Independent (Nebraska), August 19, 1999
A meteoroid, a sonic boom from a jet traveling across north central Nebraska to the Lincoln area, or...? Officials from across the state are trying to determine the source of a large boom about noon Friday. In O'Neill, the boom was actually two large booms that sounded somewhat like an artillery battery being fired. Some people said they thought a piece of nearby machinery had exploded or that a vehicle had crashed. In some areas the boom was accompanied by ground shaking and even a few broken windows. Ken Reiser of Butte said immediately after he heard the noise he heard a jet in the distance and assumed it had caused a sonic boom. A sonic boom from the speed of a plane would be created as the plane pushed the air ahead of it out of the way and air rushing in behind the plane. Under that theory a plane flying across the state would create a boom as it moved but the mystery noise was heard at the same time in both Lincoln and north central Nebraska. Officials at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha also say it is doubtful that an aircraft was to blame. An Offutt spokesman said base officials checked with the Federal Aviation Administration in Lincoln, Omaha and Minneapolis.
All of those offices said they knew of no military craft flying in the area capable of making the noise. Officials also checked with Edwards Air Force Base in California on the chance that one of its aircraft with supersonic capabilities had flown overhead. There were meteor showers over Nebraska last week and it is possible that a fragment from a meteor, which would become a meteoroid as it enters the earth's atmosphere and a meteorite if it hits the earth, could have caused the boom. Martin Gaskell, UNL professor of physics and astronomy, said a meteoroid large enough to break the atmosphere could create a sonic boom before it hit the earth. If the meteoroid were large enough, he said, it could be heard from Lincoln to north central Nebraska. As of Monday afternoon, however, there were no reports of meteorites discovered in Nebraska in the area where the boom was heard and no reports of any damage