FAIRBANKS, Alaska – Was it a meteor falling from space?
Officials think that might be what residents saw shooting through the Alaska sky near Tok on Monday afternoon.
A tremendous explosion, like a sonic boom, drew some people outside, where they watched irregular contrails scribe a path in a clear sky.
At her home four miles west of Tok, Kathy Olding was loading a large sled with firewood to haul to her house when she was startled by an explosion.
Peering out from the tarp-covered wood pile, she saw even her imperturbable Chesapeake Bay retriever, Journey, was on edge, ears cocked.
"I could kind of hear it still rumbling, like thunder," she recalled. "I thought, what in the world?"
Turning her eyes to the sky, Olding saw the oddest contrail.
"It was just like somebody took a pen and made a white cloud that went up and down and up and down and squiggly," she said, describing the pattern.
Others called 911.
Alaska State Troopers dispatcher Diane Kendall fielded several calls starting about 3:30 p.m. Most reported a loud explosion.
One caller, an adult, told Kendall an 11-year-old witnessed the entire spectacle outside.
"He said it was like a big fireball that exploded, with smoke everywhere," Kendall relayed. "The kid said, 'I think it was a meteor,' and I went, right. The Martians have landed. But then I got three other calls, boom, boom, boom. I was pretty shocked."
People reported hearing and feeling an explosion in the air, but no one called in about debris falling from the sky, said Sgt. Freddie Wells, the state trooper on duty at the time.
Responding to the reports, he went out and cas is highly unusual for many, many Tokites to have heard this explosion," Olding wrote in an e-mail. "Does ANYONE know what it was? We are all dying to know."
News that the mysterious incident was likely a meteor was somewhat reassuring, laying to rest Martian theories.
"We're looking for UFOs around here," Sgt. Wells joked.
Chappelow said nearly all meteors that leave visible trails in the atmosphere are no bigger than a BB, and most are as tiny as a grain of sand.
The brightness comes from the speed with which meteors travel into the Earth's atmosphere.