Mystery sonic boom in California

Residents of California's Central Coast experienced a sonic boom Wednesday morning but nobody knows the source. The Federal Aviation Administration reviewed their data and came back empty-handed. According to FAA spokesman Ian Gregor, it's possible their system may have missed a plane flying supersonic. From the Santa Cruz Sentinel:
The mystery has spurred its share of conspiracy theories. On the Sentinel Web site, readers comments suggested the boom was E.T.'s return, an intercontinental missile that North Korea, or test runs of new, secret U.S. Navy jets.

"It was a chemtrail weather modification program jet making rain for you," a reader going by the handle "sameold" wrote.

"The easiest answer is probably right. I'm going with aliens," commenter "jarbee" wrote.
"Sonic boom remains a mystery"


  1. Let’s see, it was in California… a state containing the highest concentration of military flight-test facilities and some of the most special-use military airspace in the country… do you suppose it could have been a sonic boom from an airplane? And contrary to popular belief, the FAA doesn’t necessarily track or control every military activity.

  2. This happened last summer in the bay area. I was up late working on a weekend night & around 3-4 am there was a sonic boom. Louder than anything I have ever heard in my 40+ years.

  3. I do love how, for some people, the answer “It was aliens” is the simple answer to so many things in life.

    I always get a chuckle from the idea of aliens travelling the vast distances of space and then need the pyramids/nazca lines to navigate by or crashing into a windmill in Wiltshire.

  4. Oh. Sorry. That was just me strumming an open A on my 1969 Fender Jaguar run into a Stereo Memory Man and outputting to twin Swart tube amps with the tremelo set deep and low. I’ll try to warn you next time.

  5. Um… okay; that was me.
    I built my Donald Duck re-cycled trash airplane, but the engine seemed kinda wimpy. So I used a Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593 rocket engine I had laying around. Ooooh baby baby!

    Long story short (literally), somewhere around Santa Cruz the landing gear blew off.
    Somewhere around San Clemente the wings blew off, and
    Somewhere around Del Mar we splashed down.
    I was picked up by a small Bayliner of drug runners with 40 keys of Acapulco gold. I don’t remember how I got home. Sorry for the false alarm.

  6. Paul, they’re just joking around.

    It was most likely the NASA X-43 or something simular. Hits Mach 7, which will give ya a nice boom.

    The whole UFO mythology was encouraged and used by the military as a cover for advanced aircraft. There are no aliens.

  7. A boom on the central coast would make perfect sense for something fast coming into Edwards Air Force Base – where the space shuttle would often land and where I lived as a toddler. All sorts of secret planes fly in and out of there as they’re being developed. Plus, there’s Vandenburg Air Force Base right there on the coast with all its rocket programs.

    I can just imagine some public information officer going, “hmmm … that’s not good. We weren’t supposed to hear that.”

  8. The explanation is simple. It’s the concentrated noise of people running away faster than the speed of sound from the shitty new Street Fighter movie.

  9. @Phikus
    >”Dewynken@10: You always get to be Iron Man. When do I get to be Iron Man?”

    Phikus, let him be Iron Man. It’s a poor choice for a flight suit anyway. Magneto would have a hay-day with that, and beat the hell out of you.
    Go with something carbon based- graphite or carbon fiber, or better still, spider web. Train spiders to “cocoon” you in your jet pack, and you can be Proteinaceous Spider Silk Man. Then hire a marketing firm to come up with a catchier name.

  10. Depending on location, there should be two booms in quick succession. One when the pressure wave at the front collapses, if that’s the correct term, and another at the tail.

    This video, after 0:40, is a great example of the boom boom.

  11. @14..its safe to say there’s a 99.99% chance that there is alien life forms out there somewhere..but they certainly haven’t been here i’m sure

  12. A commonplace occurrence here in San Diego. Everybody feels the boom, car alarms go off. USGS reports nothing. FAA reports nothing. The Marine Air Force base says nobody went supersonic. Suuure.

  13. Dear fellow residents of California’s central coast:

    I know it’s scary when the big bright thing in the sky gets hidden by gray fluffy things, and then water falls out of them, but that’s what everyone else everywhere else on the planet calls ‘weather’.

    The big booming noises from the sky when this ‘weather’ thing is going on are called ‘thunder’. It is the noise created by big bright flashes of electrical activity called ‘lightning’. You don’t always see this because sometimes it’s hidden inside the big gray fluffy things.

    Don’t worry, it’s incredibly unlikely to hurt you. It will go away for another year in a few weeks. If you have any questions, I’ll probably be at Hobbee’s on Sunday and I can explain it all to you in more detail.

  14. Troofseeker@23: I was just making a Butthole Surfers reference, but ok, sure. Please send the designs for the prototype suit ASAP. There’s crime that needs fightin’. And screw the marketing firm, I’ll go with Arachnido. Good thing in this world, Peter Parker is the name of a porn star. ;D

    Foetusnail@24: And here I thought “boom boom” was something else entirely.

    MDH@20: Doesn’t S.P. keep a close watch out for that from her front porch? Surely we would have been alerted. That’s an awesome punk rock band name, btw.

  15. @ Paul,

    I think its mostly cuz I find it soothing to think we’re not the most civilized and advanced race in the universe. A man can dream :)

    But most of the alien theories sound like BS. Except for the plutonians and the mooninites. Oh they’re real…

  16. Phikus, wow, are you in luck! I have your suit!

    Your reference to the Butthole Surfers (are those guys the surf nazis at Swamis that think they own the reef break?) …makes me think you’ll appreciate the weapon that comes with the suit (modeled by my son, who didn’t care for the weapon- it plays System Of A Down music at about 315db).
    You can have the suit if you’ll promise to come to my aid when Carnac the Malignant comes to beat me up. Fair enough?

    Here’s the suit:

  17. Phicus- I rather liked that, especially the animation…

    How about Tiny Tim’s Tiptoe Thru the Tulips?

    No, wait! Roseann Barr’s National Anthem! Deadly!

  18. @ Troofseeker

    That is an amazing-sounding suit, and is made even better by the addition of Phikus’ song by Les Claypool.

    Any chance you can make more of them, with the new song?
    I’ve been thinking about getting me one of them new-fangled super suits for a while now.

  19. As is well known, “They” got these seismograph thing-a-ma-jiggers which can record and paint you a purty picture of what it was what made that there sonic boom. Then “They” can compare that signature with the rest of the known and unknown supersonic flying objects they recorded and tell you what it wasn’t (SR-71 or MiG-25) or what it was (shuttle orbiter vehicle or that other darned unidentified thing we’ve been recording over and over for a few years now).
    Me? I say it was the Hot Rod Lincoln goin’ over the Grapevine Pass! Yeehaw!

  20. The ‘tracking’ that the ATC’s (FAA) are useing are mostly SSR (Secondary Surveilance RaDAR), in essence a Becon IFF (Identify Friend or Foe). All the pilot has to do to ‘dissapear’ is turn off the transponder. It’s not a difficult thing to do. It probably was a test that the military was performing and didn’t want the civi world to know about.

  21. There was a sonic boom a few years back where I live (Christchurch, New Zealand). It was amazing, so loud, like nothing I had ever heard. I thought that something really large must have exploded, maybe a 747 crash at the airport. Turns out it was a meteor. I recall that some people reported seeing it, the authorities were able to establish it’s course and even a possible place where it crashed into a field. It was all rather surreal.

  22. I don’t know how far it was heard on the “Central Coast”. In Santa Cruz (near UCSC), it was definitely a single boom, and not terribly loud, nor rolling.

  23. RatDog- You want the suit? You gotta promise that you’ll only use it to fight for Truth, Justice, and the… the… just respect the rights of the accused. A little. That’s something no superhero has ever done- they always seem to incur punishments of their own.

    BTW, and I forgot to mention this to Phikus, I never actually tried the propulsion system… it’s a little bit nuclear. So if it doesn’t “crater”, it could possibly send you to places “no man has ever gone before”. Good luck, send us a postcard!

  24. I live in Santa Cruz, and I didn’t hear a thing. Of course last year there was a minor earthquake (3.4 or something) and I didn’t notice it, but my friend in the east bay that I was chatting with online noticed it, as did my upstairs neighbor, so I guess that just means I’m pretty oblivious to these things.

    I’ll go with the same thing I always go with when it comes to mysterious sonic booms: spy plane.

  25. TroofSeeker-I’ll do whatever, I have a lot of time on my hands, so I can do all those things. I would probably mostly try and live up to the greatest super hero alive: Captain Planet. He taught me to recycle.

    But the suit better show my well-toned body. Perhaps stainless steel abs in the front. and some rear view mirrors.

  26. [The sound of hands clapping away dust]

    RatDog, my man! We’re ready!
    Steel abs?
    Check. (It’s attached with velcro, so if Magneto starts jacking you around, just pull it off! Ha!
    Cool crime-fightin’ pseudonym emblazoned across chest?
    Check! And note that I spelled Dog with two G’s, so no one knows it’s you! Always thinkin’!
    So without any further ado, here’s your suit, Sir.
    Go get ’em!
    [Is someone filming this?]

  27. Oh, RATDOG… “They” are them boys down at the United States Department of Seismograph Stuff, or some such geological studyin’ junk. You know, some Hawaiian guy with a beard who says sonic booms are picked up and recorded by earthquake detecting gear and they can compare different graphs and roughly estimate the size of the object. A few years ago they started recording a mystery sonic boom at the same time every Thursday and the guy with a beard said whatever it is, it’s not the size of an orbiter or an SR-71, but something longer. [The guy says that, not his beard.] Okay, I cheated and Googled Jim Mori. You can, too.

  28. Relax, people. It’s just the Secret Wars. The “booms” are The Beyonder opening portals to Battleworld. It’ll be over soon, Rat Dogg’ll have a cool “dark” new look for a few months, and we’ll get a classic new villain out of it to boot after Ratty discovers his new suit’s dangerous secret.

  29. @Phikus:
    >”Troofseeker@23: Please send the designs for the prototype suit ASAP…”

    Phikus- uh, there was a problem with the suit. Overnight the spiders ate away at the suit. I’ve got them busy reinforcing it now.
    You get web shooters to go with the Arachnido theme. It’s really 10-lb. test fishing line with a glob of gum to pull it. Keep fresh chewed gum in it.
    I’ve used leaded paint to deter spiders.
    It leaks a little radiation… so if your hair comes out in clumps, take a few days off.
    Here’s yer suit, Crime Fighter!
    The controls are solar powered, so they might not work at night.
    It weighs 416 pounds, and there’s exposed wiring, so don’t go in water. It may shrink 30-40%.
    The self-destruct switch is large with a weak spring, so try not to bump that.
    Sometimes one jet fires before the other. I think I got that fixed…
    And don’t mention my name is NASA catches you.
    Good luck, and good crime fighting!

  30. It would actually be pretty easy to compare the location of the reports against an FAA-approved sectional chart to see if this occurred near a designated MOA.

    If so, then you have a potential cause.

    The FAA isn’t always keenly aware of what the military does. They’re more concerned with civilian operations. Their main concern with military aircraft is making sure they’re not interfered with by civilian aircraft.

  31. Can any one think of a good name for my arch villain?
    And a theme tune. need a good theme tune.

  32. The last two times I was around for unknown sonic booms in CA one was a misfired missile from Vandenburg AFB (I read something about this in the paper a day or two after the sonic boom) or construction on the bay bridge (something about killing wildlife with sonic booms). I’m guessing it was the missile. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard!

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