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What exactly caused the boom heard 'round Utah?

Posted at 5:56 PM, Aug 15, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY — The object that created the "boom" heard across northern Utah early Saturday was a meteor, but there are other words to describe it. Meteoroids and meteorites are also used, but what's the difference?

One rock can be all three, but not at the same time.

In space, the rock is a meteoroid, while in the Earth's atmosphere it's a meteor, and if it makes it to the ground, it's a meteorite.

Photoshoppers had a field day putting a giant flaming object streaking through Little Cottonwood Canyon, and downtown Salt Lake City with zombies and the elusive discontinued Choco Tacos.

Even the Kaysville Police Department took part with a social media post of their own.

But don't be fooled, meteors don't look like fireballs as they fall to earth. They get extremely hot in the atmosphere, but falling through miles of ultra-cold air cools them down.

As far as meteorites actually hitting Utah, those are very rare.

The Utah Geological Survey says there are four likely meteorite craters in the state, including Upheaval Dome; a kind of beautiful inverted crater in Canyonlands National Park.

The American Meteor Society only lists 26 confirmed meteorites located in Utah. The biggest was found in the Drum Mountains of Millard County with a mass of mostly iron weighing 1,164 pounds. It was found by two Japanese-American men forcefully relocated to the Topaz Internment Camp during World War II.

The geologist brought back to the site said it likely fell "within the last hundred years" as written in 1944.

The most recently confirmed find was in 2014 in the Tule Valley, also in Millard County, with the larger of two pieces weighing about half an ounce.

An expert told FOX 13 News that Saturday's meteor may have been the size of a beach ball and may have split in two in the atmosphere. Even a meteor that big may have disintegrated, but it's possible there a meteorite or two from the rock fell somewhere in the western U.S.