Tucson boom mystery solved - Tucson News Now

Tucson boom mystery solved

Posted: Updated:
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Officials from Luke Air Force Base confirmed to Tucson News Now an F-16 that was flying training missions in the Sells area west of Tucson went supersonic on Wednesday night.

That confirmation came Thursday afternoon.

The aircraft from the 425th Fighter Squadron broke the sound barrier at about 7:45 p.m. Wednesday northwest of Kitt Peak.

Though no military installation would confirm it early on Thursday, local scientists were saying the boom that rattled Tucson Wednesday night was almost certainly caused by high speed aircraft.

The window-jarring, wall-shaking event generated about 150 calls to 911 from the Pinal County line all the way south to Green Valley.

"One of our officers on the street did receive a report from a citizen who said they saw two jets flying over shortly before hearing the loud explosion sound," said Tucson Police Sgt. Chris Widmer.

911 callers reported hearing one big boom. Others thought there were more.

"People perceived it in a variety of ways. Some people said it felt like something fell on their roof. Others said they were worried somebody was trying to get into the front door which is why they called 911. So there was just a lot of uncertainty on what actually happened," said Pima County Sheriff's Deputy Tom Peine.

People speculated much of Thursday about what the loud boom was, but KOLD found there was scientific evidence that told us what it was not.

A lot of that came from a seismograph, a sort of picture of the boom.

The seismograph was generated at the seismic station in the foothills of Tucson's Santa Catalina Mountains.

The picture tells us what time the booming sound hit: A few seconds past 7:45 p.m.

Some houses shook briefly as they might in an earthquake.

The seismograph also tells us it was not a mine explosion.

That has its own signature, and so do earthquakes.

"They have a very certain characteristic, and a certain frequency in which they look best at, if you will. And this kind of a disturbance, like other disturbances in the past--such as sonic booms--are much higher frequency and they don't have those same characteristics that an earthquake has," said University of Arizona Seismologist and Professor of Geosciences Dr. Susan Beck.

Dr. Beck said her best guess was that it was an atmospheric disturbance such as a sonic boom, and it turned out she was right. 

Also before Luke AFB confirmed it, KOLD News 13 Chief Meteorologist Chuck George had reported that, based on the evidence and on past experience, it was most likely a sonic boom that had  come from west of Tucson.

Copyright 2013 Tucson News Now All rights reserved.

Powered by WorldNow