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Meteor's sonic boom shakes Devon, police inundated with calls

By NeilShaw  |  Posted: October 20, 2012

Artist's impression of a meteorite fall

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Police in Devon were inundated with calls after a loud bang shook the earth and left people frightened just after 4pm on Thursday.

Police say they initially thought there had been a mini-earthquake, but calls to the British Geological Survey proved that wasn't the case.

The BGS suggested it was more likely to have been the sonic boom caused by a meteor passing through the earth's atmosphere.

A police spokesman said: "We received a number of calls just after 4pm on Thursday from people reporting a loud bang and shaking.

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"There were reports of crockery shaking and similar disturbance.

"According to the BGS it is likely to have been caused by a meteor sonic boom."

There were reports from Harrowbarrow, Millbrook and the Tamar Valley in South East Cornwall as well as Dartmoor, the South Hams and across Devon.

According to the BBC, doors were blown open at a police station in South Devon.

Alan Penman, chairman of Plymouth Astronomical Society, said: "In my experience it is most unlikely to have anything to do with the Orionids which peak on the 21/22. October and certainly not an asteroid.

"There have been several instance recently of pieces of space junk (rocket or satellite remnants falling back to earth and burning up.)

"My most likely candidate however would be a bolide, which is a large chunk of rock and possibly iron which would burn and explode on entering the Earths atmosphere, scattering small pieces of debris over a large area depending on its trajectory.

"These have been known to create a sonic boom, and in some cases have even skipped on the Earths atmosphere and gone back out into space again."

sophy in South Devon tweeted: "Did anyone else here the massive bang about an hour ago?...Such a loud bang tho to be heard by everyone in lots of places."

lucy chubb tweeted: "Anyone else hear the massive bang in Newton :/"

Joe Fawcett tweeted: "I swear we just had a mini earthquake??"

Keran Fletcher tweeted: "Either a small earthquake or they're blowing **** up at the quarry."

Robynnn tweeted: "Earthquake tremor things in cornwall!"

Jonty Parsons tweeted: "Anybody with some conclusive evidence on what that bang was?"

Emily tweeted: "Turns out things do happen in the south west. We had a ‘sonic boom‘ earlier"

Every year, around October 20, the earth passes through a cloud of debris left behind by Halley's Comet.

Tomorrow and Sunday are the peak days to witness the Orionid meteor showers.

A meteor is the visible path of an object originating in space passing through the earth's atmosphere.

Objects which survive collision with the earth are meteorites.

Inspector Gareth Twigg, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: "The first calls reported sounds like an explosion. Further calls also described noise and then objects shaking.

"One lady on Dartmoor who was alive during World War II said it was like a bomb going off.

"In Newton Abbot station, we had windows and the ground shaking, so we were getting it first hand too.

"We checked with the British Geological Survey to ask if it was because of a tremor, but they said it may have been caused by something a little more spectacular - possibly a sonic boom from a meteorite as it caused pressure changes in the atmosphere while falling.

"It appears nothing has struck the earth that has caused any damage or injury.

"We're waiting to hear if we get anything back from local scientists."

Brian Sheen director of Roseland Observatory in Cornwall said it could have been an asteroid.

"It's incredible really makes you wonder whether it's something else that went bang.

"But chances are if it wasn't a tremor it was something that came in.

"On October 17 there was a similar occurrence in San Francisco.

"And one in the UK and one in Canada about a month ago.

"It could be an Aten asteroid - Earth crossing asteroids - this is believed what could have happened.

"But nobody seems to have found any bits yet."

He advised people to look out for meteor fragments, adding: "Somebody's got to find them probably."

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  • NellyNelly  |  January 05 2013, 2:40PM

    we heard a boom/explosion on Thursday morning but it was at 0253 (looked at the clock to remember the time and see if we could find out what it was)

  • CharlieDodd  |  October 22 2012, 4:57PM

    ..Niug said- 'it has nothing to do with religion'.. No? Check it..:)- Jesus said "The stars will fall from the sky" (Matt 24:29)

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  • leona23  |  October 22 2012, 3:56PM

    If you want to know where it landed, this article might help http://tinyurl.com/9u3kew9 seems it went all the way to the San Francisco Bay area. :)

  • niugnepyzarc  |  October 22 2012, 12:10PM

    charlie thats because it has nothing to do with religion my friend, YOU are the one who always trys to derail every topic to carry on along those lines, sad little troll that you are.

  • Hocus_Pocus  |  October 22 2012, 11:57AM


  • whothellami  |  October 22 2012, 11:13AM

    Read 'The Western Witches to find out what is really going on!

  • omnivore23  |  October 22 2012, 10:58AM

    tin foil won't stop people reading your thoughts if you insist on posting them online.

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  • Hocus_Pocus  |  October 22 2012, 7:51AM

    I wrap tin foil around my head, no one can read my thoughts then...........

  • CharlieDodd  |  October 22 2012, 2:59AM

    Amazing, this thread has been up a day and the atheists haven't tried to turn it into an anti-religion thread yet..:)

  • jabbathebutt  |  October 21 2012, 11:40PM

    And dont you just love the artists impression of a meteor fall ? I was expecting the usual Herald pic of police tape across an accident . Well done Herald . Must be the new management pushing those just out of uni to their limits .

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