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Riddle of the late night rumblings that caused a sonic boom in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 09:46 11 August 2011

An artist's impression of a meteor over Norwich

An artist's impression of a meteor over Norwich


Mystery surrounds what made the earth tremble across Norfolk in a bizarre late-night phenomenon

Meteorite facts

Meteorites are fragments of rock and metal which have fallen from space.

Asteroids are different shaped rocks which orbit the sun. When two asteroids collide a meteorite is formed and breaks away from the original rock.

Once separated, the meteorite is captured by the Earth’s gravity reaching speeds of more than 11.2km per second.

As it reaches the Earth’s atmosphere it slows down due to friction, gas and glow.

A meteorite is commonly known as a shooting star (meteor), the only difference is a meteorite survives the passage through the Earth’s atmosphere and has an impact.

Although their paths are random, meteorites nearly always fall in the ocean.

Experts and amateurs alike believe a sonic boom – triggered by a meteorite or aircraft – caused strange tremors to shake homes and spook pets.

The rattling was reported by people across the county, including Norwich, North Walsham, Gayton, Belton, Cringleford and South Lopham at about 10.30pm on Tuesday.

Jonathan Larter, from Sprowston, said: “I was just going to bed and the house started shaking and doors rumbling as if the wind was blowing through the windows, but they weren’t open. I thought it was a ghost outside knocking on my door because I live near a cemetery.”

Alan Sharman, from City Road, Norwich, added: “My French doors rattled rather loudly at 10.30-ish. It actually sounded like someone was trying to get in. It woke me up a bit.”

Experts quickly dismissed the possibility of the movement being caused by an earthquake as their equipment did not pick up any seismic activity.

Glen Ford, a seismologist with the British Geological Survey, said: “From the descriptions and the lack of seismic information ,it sounds like it could have been a sonic boom.”

Mr Ford said sonic booms can be caused by aircraft or meteorites. And in a bizarre coincidence some people reported seeing a meteor over the skies of Norwich just before the tremor started.

Dominic Hyde-Smith, 44, spotted “a streak of fire” land south of the city while on his way home to Hempnall.

“It just shot down in a split second,” he said. “Rather than a shooting star, this went straight down towards the ground.”

Meanwhile, RAF Marham staff said aircraft were not out on Tuesday but planes from RAF Lakenheath were reported to have been on exercise.

Do you have a theory about what made the earth tremble? Email


  • Errr Peter just because there are jets about doesn't mean it couldn't have been a Meteroid BTW you do realise we're passing through the remnants of a comet at the moment the Perseid meteor shower peaked this morning at 6am but will be visible for awhile yet so a large one of them could easily have caused it. Occams razor yes could easily have been the jets but just because it could have been does not preclude anything else. It's all a bit of fun no ones getting hurt. Calm down dear it's only a sonic boom ;o)

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    Saturday, August 13, 2011

  • It must have hit the earth somewhere, is anybody looking for it? I heard a double boom, one following the other by a split second, but clearly audable as two booms. Should come with some sort of crater and be about 10 ft. down.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

  • Usually such strange knockings are associated (at Overstrand. Black Carr and at Besthorpe) with an appearance of 'Black Shuck' the red-eyed cryptozoological 'hell hound'.

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    Dr Pruss

    Friday, August 12, 2011

  • Please calm down and stop letting your imaginations run away with you? Let me put your minds to rest the noise was caused by jets. I was outside and heard them clearly. Some of you must get out more, too much television I reckon.

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    Thursday, August 11, 2011

  • ingo, if I come across such crater with little green men inside, I shall explain to them that its not very sustainable to travel in such vehicles and can they use the new buses on the UEA service for their return trip....every little helps!!!

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    Thursday, August 11, 2011

  • We certainly heard something very loud and rumbling, low in the sky, late on Tuesday night. It sounded very much like a heavy transport plane and took a long time to pass over Diss and Roydon. Looking to come down in Suffolk, we thought, so nothing to worry about.

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    Thursday, August 11, 2011

  • We heard it, but living not far from the airport. I looked at the clock & said I thought they were not suppose to be doing that at this time of night.

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    Thursday, August 11, 2011

  • The report from Dominic Hyde-Smith interests me. Meteorites almost always descend at an angle. They encounter the earths gravity which pulls them into a descending orbit, even a direct 'head on' approach will be deflected into an orbit by the earths rotation. Dominic reported a vertical descent (streak of fire), I would find this unusual if it was a meteorite, it would have been very fast. I wonder if the Yanks are playing with new toys for use in the middle east? There are strange (autonomous drone) operations on the coast of Wales already we know little about.

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    keith gerrard

    Monday, August 15, 2011

  • My privy doors rattled considerably at around that time. I was more relieved than worried.

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    Friday, August 12, 2011

  • Even if it was a meteoroid that caused the boom the odds on it reaching the ground and even if it did it wouldn't have had the mass to leave a crater anyway0 as once enough mass had burnt away the resultant smaller piece of rock would have been slowed sufficiently by the atmosphere to just land no harder than a spot of rain

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    Thursday, August 11, 2011

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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