Meteor (stock image)
©, Rick Scott and Joe Orman/Associated Press
The loud unexplained sound that rattled homes and unnerved people across the Athens area on Saturday may have been a sonic boom created by a meteor, a retired University of Georgia professor said Wednesday.

"I think if it wasn't the military, it may well have been a meteor, which may have been natural or a piece of space junk returning to Earth," said Michael Covington, an artificial intelligence expert who's been involved in astronomy for 50 years.

Because the boom was deafening across a wide area, a ground-based explosion could be ruled out as the cause, according to Covington.

"It seemed to be loud at a bunch of different places from the Athens Country Club to the Epps Bride Parkway area" in a north-to-south direction, he said.

Covington heard rattling in his Athens home at 1:26 p.m. Saturday.

"I noted the exact time so I could look up earthquakes. I was sure it was an earthquake, but there was no earthquake reported," he said.

A sonic boom created by a meteor is not common, "but it seems to be what we are left with here. There was no thunder in the area," said Covington, who has written several books on telescopes and astrophotography.

"A sonic boom from a meteor will be a little bit briefer than a sonic boom from an aircraft, and that seems to fit this case," he said.