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What is a sonic boom? ‘Tremors’ shake up New Jersey residents

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HAMMONTON, N.J. -- New Jersey residents were on edge for a brief time Thursday afternoon after feeling what many described as "tremors."

The shaking was so strong that around 1:30 p.m., some called 911 while many others took to social media in a panic.

Tweets and Facebook updates flooded in, but experts from the United States Geological Survey initially couldn’t explain the shaking and had no evidence of an earthquake.

About two hours later, officials with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) confirmed that the shaking was due to a sonic boom originating near Hammonton, New Jersey.

What is a sonic boom?

A sonic boom is a loud, thunder-like explosive noise caused by the shock wave from an aircraft traveling faster than the speed of sound, according to the USGS.

NASA reports that as objects travel through the air, the air molecules are pushed aside with great force and this forms a shock wave much like a boat creates a bow wave.

The bigger and heavier the aircraft, the more air it displaces.

It's also described as being on the shore of a smooth lake when a boat speeds past. There is no disturbance as the boat speeds by, but eventually a large wave from the wake rolls onto the shore. When a plane flies by at supersonic speeds the exact same thing happens, but instead of the large wake wave, you get a sonic boom.