With some predicting the end of the world next Saturday, residents of Virginia Beach could be forgiven for fearing the worst when they heard a loud boom on Tuesday night.

But according to NASA scientists, the earth shattering explosion was nothing more than a meteorite exploding as it entered the earth's atmosphere.

The incident, which was loud enough to rattle homes in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Suffolk and other areas prompted a flurry of calls to 911 from concerned residents.
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Speaking to WAVY-TV, NASA scientist Joe Zawodny said the boom is most consistent with the space rock and is probably associated with a meteor shower that peaked last week.

Mr Zawodny says an object as small as a golf ball could cause such a loud bang if it was travelling fast enough.

'A sonic boom is pressure wave, and it mimics an explosion.

'They can be quite forceful, and can definitely rattle walls and windows.'

Speaking to the station, Pam Trotter of Virginia Beach said the boom felt almost like an earthquake.

According to experts, there are many different types of meteor.

Some are iron meteorites, which melt and burn on their way down but remain intact, Mr Zawodny said.
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Timing: According to experts meteorite explosions are niot uncommon, happening in the continental U.S. at least a dozen times a year

The noise heard on Tuesday was most likely a made of iron, travelling at around 1,000 mph.

As it entered the atmosphere it would have left a trail of sonic booms as it disintegrated quite close to the ground.

Speaking to website Lifes Littel Mysteries, Mr Zawodny said there was one other remote possibility.

He said: 'The only other thing that I've been holding open as possibility - and this would be quite rare - is this could be a result of an atmospheric ducting phenomenon.

For ducting to work, ideal weather conditions create layers in the atmosphere that channel sound waves from one place to another.

He added: 'We've had the right temperature profile in the area.

'There could have been an offshore Navy thing that made sound that travelled along the duct inland.

'It would have had to be a really huge sound, though.'