HAZARD — Dozens of articles, news reports, blogs, and even paranormal theories took place following a mysterious explosion in the sky over Perry County one year ago this month.
Several people saw what was described at the time as an explosion in the sky over Hazard. Though initial reports indicated a plane crash, no one saw a plane and no wreckage was ever found. Then reports turned to a possible mine explosion, though the fireball was seen in the sky, not the ground. Then everything from meth labs, to aliens, to cosmic phenomenon were all mentioned. But even now it is unclear just what happened over the skies in Hazard that night.
The first reports of the alleged fireball in the sky came in on the evening of Sunday, Dec. 10, 2011. According to witnesses the fire ball appeared to be located in the sky over the Dipsy Doodle Curve in Lothair. People from downtown to Lothair reported hearing a loud boom strong enough to rattle windows. When they looked up, fire and smoke were in the air and what appeared to be smoke trails.
Crews immediately responded, covering the massive area where the explosion could be seen. Eventually crews ended up in the Lotts Creek area after a helicopter searching for what was thought to be a plane crash found a heat signature in the mountains.
Crews continued to search this area until the early hours of the morning. The search resumed with the light of day where only a few burnt trees were found in the area of the heat signature. For those who saw the explosion, the area where they found the trees would not be in the same place, nor would it explain what they heard and saw.
The trees were found in the area of an old mine leading many to believe that had caught fire when gas combusted in the mine shaft. However, when the mine was investigated by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, officials said that there was no way the shaft could have produced the explosion people saw over Hazard.
Even a year later no photos or videos of the event have surfaced, making it difficult to determine exactly what people saw. Detailed descriptions told to the Herald via social media and in interviews all seem to match, which lend to the theory that what many claim they saw that night was the same event.
A few days later, the news of the explosion had traveled around the state on news organizations and around the world on UFO blogs. Many of these blogs claimed that the explosion could have been an alien craft and called the sightings of the fireball UFO sightings. Several even claimed that there had been explosions reported in other parts of the state that had been reported to be sonic booms from Fort Knox that could have been related.
One man who is an expert in UFO activities in Appalachia said that if this were alien life, it does not fit any pattern he has ever seen. Kevin Lovern of Williamson, West Virginia has written two volumes on the subject of Appalachian UFOs called Appalachian Case Study: UFO. Lovern also maintains a blog where he comments on the latest sightings,` and a year ago he wrote about the event over Perry County.
In Lovern’s post on the incident he says, “If anyone’s going to confirm the existence of life outside of this planet, why not do it right here in Perry County?” He added that while this question is valid, his first thought was that the explosion was something much less extraordinary, like space debris.
“It is unusual that a UFO would actually explode,” said Lovern.
Part of the reason Lovern has decided to follow the UFO sightings of Appalachia is the number of sightings in the area. “Over the years there has been a lot of UFO activity in Kentucky,” said Lovern.
Despite this he said cannot say he believes that the explosion in Hazard was UFO related.
One theory that emerged was that of an extraterrestrial body coming to earth, though not the kind most people may think of. WYMT Meteorologist Jim Caldwell wrote on his What’s on Jim’s Radar? blog about the possibility of the explosion being a meteor.
According to Hazard Community and Technical College astronomy professor Jeremy Wood, the meteor theory is one he sees as being plausible. While larger NEOs, or near earth objects, are tracked and researched regularly, smaller meteors typically are not. NEOs could pose a threat to Earth if they were to be pulled into Earth’s gravity and struck the planet, while meteors tend to be small and vaporize in the atmosphere.
According to Wood, he did not think the object was a NEO due to the fact that no damage was reported. “If it was closer to the ground and exploded, we would have had rocks hitting the ground,” said Wood, adding that he believes it could have been a meteor called a bolide.
“A bolide is an exceptionally bright meteor,” Wood continued. “It is brighter than the planet Venus and they are often associated with explosions, and they are also known as fireballs.”
Bolides enter the Earth’s atmosphere every day but often go unnoticed. Wood noted that often if they occur at higher elevations, any accompanying noise may not be heard, and if it is during the day the fire may not be bright enough to be seen.
Meteors and other celestial bodies often explode in the Earth’s atmosphere due to the speed, friction, pressure, and heat that is created upon entry. If an object is the right size, it can be seen. Different meteor showers are happening near earth at all times of the year. During the early to mid-December two meteor showers are known to occur: the Pheonicid and the Germinid meteor showers. The peak of the Germinid Meteor Shower was on Dec.14 of last year, just four days after the explosion was seen in Hazard.
While many of the theories as to what the explosion could have been have been ruled out, many more remain. It is possible we will never know for sure what caused this boom, but the community remains curious.