Paul Nelson
Channel 2 News

A mysterious boom and rumbling had all eyes on the sky Sunday morning, and left people wondering what caused it.

Astronomers say that loud explosion was likely the result of a meteor traveling through the earth's atmosphere, somewhere near the Sierra.

Experts rule out an earthquake because there was no seismic activity recorded during this event.

And, with so many people reporting a fireball and loud explosion from hundreds of miles around, experts say a meteor is the most likely conclusion.

A picture was sent into our newsroom by our iWitness user, Lisa Warren (See right), Sunday morning. Experts believe it is, in fact, the meteor that so many people are talking about.

"They hit our thick atmosphere with a lot of force and they usually break apart before they hit," said Dan Ruby of the Fleischmann Planetarium on the University of Nevada Campus. "When they break apart, they can explode with a big boom that would sound like a sonic boom."

The loud boom and flash of light were reported from Winnemucca to Sacramento, and as far south as Bakersfield, California.

"I heard it, kind of felt it a little bit," said Jeff Rivera of Wingfield Springs. "My first thought was either a large explosion, somewhere, or something had crashed."

"I was laying in bed, and all of the sudden, I heard quite a loud boom and then like, a second slightly smaller explosion, it sounded like," said Caroline Cova of Sparks.

Experts say meteor showers are usually smaller pieces of dust, and this was probably unrelated because this meteor was about the size of a washing machine, like the meteorite on display at the Fleischmann Planetarium.

They say the earth gets hit by chunks of rock all the time, but seeing one this size is much more rare and can also play tricks on people.

"It's deceptive because, in looking at things in the sky, everybody thinks they saw it right in front of them and it landed just over the mountain range, next to them," Ruby said. "In reality, that's never the case."

In fact, Ruby says it probably didn't land at all, vaporizing before hitting the ground. He says it's impossible that smaller fragments may have landed, but they would be very difficult to find.

Ruby tells us he doubts this could be comet fragments because those are so rare, and he also doesn't think it's space junk because dead satellites are usually tracked pretty closely.