Flashes, booms reported over Western Washington
Bright flashes and sharp booms were reported in the skies over the Puget Sound area early today, and aviation officials said a meteor may have been the source.
Nothing unusual was detected on National Weather Service radar, and authorities also ruled out aircraft problems or military flight tests.
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Toby Smith, a University of Washington astronomy lecturer who specializes in meteorites, told The Associated Press that scientists were looking into the cause of the skybursts reported over a wide area about 2:40 a.m.
Witnesses along a 60-mile swath of the sound from near Tacoma to Whidbey Island and as far as 260 miles to the east said the sky lit up brilliantly, and many reported booming sounds as if from one or more explosions.
Weather service officials at Sand Point in north Seattle said there was no storm or other meteorological activity that could have produced the skybursts.
Jay Neher, a weather service meteorologist, said the agency’s radar on Whidbey Island showed nothing unusual but added that the dish could have been pointed at another part of the sky at the time and could not detect objects above about 20,000 feet.
Duty officers at the Federal Aviation Administration and the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station said they knew of no civilian or military airplane problems.
Civilian pilots reported seeing the flash from Ellensburg, east of the Cascade Range, said an FAA duty officer who did not give her name. She also said one or more meteorites _ meteors that hit the Earth _ could be responsible.
At Whidbey Island, Petty Officer Andrew Davis said he and others on the base about 40 miles north of Seattle saw the skyburst.
“It made a pretty big bang,” Davis said. “We thought it could maybe be a meteorite or something.”
Ralph Gaume, head of astronometry at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., said he knew of no likely source from outer space, such as a passing comet or meteor cluster or shower, but added that meteors commonly appear at random. Another possibility, he said, would be “space junk” such as spent rocket engines or satellites falling from Earth orbit.
Astronometry is the branch of astronomy that measures the size and location of celestial objects. [size=12][/size]