It wasn't the end of the world. It just looked like it to those people who saw a cosmic fireworks show over Southwest skies.

A midday meteor streaking above West Texas and New Mexico on Thursday sent residents scurrying to their phones to report what many feared was an airplane exploding or some kind of aerial collision.

Satellite image of meteor

Robert Simpson saw it from his home near Fort Davis and was delighted. But then, he had a better idea of what it was.

"It always kind of floors you," said Simpson, a spokesman for McDonald Observatory, 175 miles southeast of El Paso.

The meteor appeared at 12:47 p.m. as a flash about as bright as the surface of a setting sun, he said.

The reports -- of the light, an explosive blast and a smoke trail -- are all consistent with the appearance of a daytime meteor, also known as a fireball or bolide.

"If it had happened at night it would have lit up the countryside as bright as day," said Bill Wren, another observatory spokesman.

As it was, it was pretty spectacular.

Fire and police agencies in El Paso County and southern New Mexico were flooded with reports of an explosion that shook homes and jangled nerves.

A police helicopter flying about 25 miles east of the city spotted about an acre of scorched ranch land, and authorities believe it could be where the meteor hit. But the foreman of Cooper Cattle Co. ranch said he didn't think so.

"We had two different fires out here a couple of days ago during the lightning storms," said Dub Pruitt.

Some residents saw the flash; others heard only a shuddering boom.

"It shook the whole damned neighborhood," said Tom Tyra, a Horizon City resident. "Everybody came out of their house."