RENO. Nevada – Residents in Nevada and California were shaken awake by a loud explosion and a light show in the sky Sunday morning, FOX 40 reports.
911 centers on both sides of the Sierra Nevada were flooded with calls reporting the explosion, while others reported fireball sightings.
“I saw this fireball streak across the sky and then it curved down and it exploded,” California resident Pamella Farley told FOX40.
"It made the shades in my room shake hard enough to slam into the window a couple times," Nicole Carlsen of the Reno area told The Associated Press. "I kept looking for earthquake information, but (there was) nothing. I even checked the front of my house to make sure no one ran into the garage."
Astronomers say the sonic boom or explosion sound and the fireball were likely caused a meteor. They say this sort of cosmic event is pretty common, but rarely are bright enough to be seen and heard.
"From the reports, I have no doubt it was a fireball," said Robert Lunsford of the Geneseo, N.Y.-based American Meteor Society. "It happens all the time, but most are in daytime and are missed. This one was extraordinarily bright in the daylight."
Lunsford said it's "pretty rare" for fireballs to produce a loud explosion. For that to happen, he explained, the meteor must have survived intact until breaking up about five miles above Earth. Most fireballs are visible at 50 miles above Earth.
"If you hear a sonic boom or loud explosion, that's a good indication that some fragments may have reached the ground," Lunsford told The Associated Press. "We'll have to get some people to work on it to pinpoint where it broke up and see if anything can be found on the ground."
Experts disagreed on whether the event could be a result of the Lyrid meteor shower that happens each April
Dan Ruby, associate director of the Fleischmann Planetarium at the University of Nevada, Reno, said it's unlikely the fireball had anything to do with the current peak of the shower.
"People are putting two and two together and saying it has something to do with the meteor shower," he told The Associated Press. "But the fireball was probably coincidental and unrelated to the peak of the meteor shower."
However, Tom Dang of the National Weather Service said he believed the meteor could have been part of the shower.
“It leaves a cloud of debris and we're just moving through that debris right now,” Dang told FOX 40.
Though the fireball was seen over such a wide area, Ruby said it was likely just "a little bigger than a washing machine."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.