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June 12, 2021

Heard a loud boom Thursday? Here’s what experts say was responsible

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—The loud boom that echoed over much of Santa Cruz County late Thursday evening—and the fireball streaking across the sky that accompanied it—was probably a piece of natural space debris roughly the size of a volleyball that entered the earth’s atmosphere and burned up before coming to rest somewhere east of Santa Cruz.

That’s according to Robert Lundford, the fireball report coordinator for the American Meteor Society (AMS), a 110-year-old nonprofit dedicated to meteoric astronomy research, and collecting reports of meteors and fireballs.

“We call those daylight fireballs,” Lundford said. 

The fireball streaked across the sky around 7:15pm—witnesses said it looked like a firework, followed by a loud boom.

While meteor showers come at regular intervals throughout the year, such as the Leonids, Perseids and Geminids, fireballs are more unpredictable, Lundford says.

“They kind of appear when they want to,” he said.

The group also accepts fireball reports, he said. With enough of those from witnesses, AMS volunteers can pinpoint where space debris falls, and sometimes find it. The last time that happened was in northern California about five years ago, Lundford said.

Anyone can see meteors, Lundford says, if they turn their eyes up to the sky. These can be faint streaks of light or larger fireballs, Lundford says.

“You don’t need to have a $3,000 telescope to see meteors,” he said. “Just get a lounge chair, sit back and enjoy nature’s fireworks.”

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