Fireball Streaks Across California Sky

Chabot astronomers in Oakland said the meteor was not related to the asteroid passing near Earth

By Staff and Wires
|  Friday, Feb 15, 2013  |  Updated 11:24 PM PDT
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Fireball Streaks Across California Sky

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On a day that had a lot of people talking about meteorites and asteroids, a fireball of some sort was seen streaking across the California sky.

It was seen in the Bay Area about 7:45 p.m. Residents from as far north as Fairfield and as far south as Gilroy reported seeing the shooting star. It was also seen in Sacramento, Newark, Walnut Creek and St. Helena.

It was bluish in color and appeared to be heading straight to the ground, according to a viewer in Santa Clara.

Candice Guruwaiya told NBC Bay Area via Facebook that she saw it in San Jose.

"I was leaving Safeway on Branham and Snell when I saw it. It looked like it was headed for the Capital Auto Mall area. It was a bright green when it first appeared, then it went to a bright yellow. It was awesome!" Guruwaiya posted.

Gina Johnson also caught a glimpse of the zooming star in San Jose.

"It looked just like the one I saw back in October except it was a little smaller. It was greenish in color just like the one on October. Everyone in the parking lot stopped and looked at it," Johnson wrote.

The fireball comes on the same night that a 150-foot-wide asteroid was due to come within 17,200 miles of Earth.

The meteor was not related to the asteroid passing near Earth, according to astronomers at Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland.

Chabot astronomer Gerald McKeegan said he did not see the fireball, but based on witness' accounts, he thinks it was a "sporadic meteor," which can happen several times a day. Most sporadic meteors zoom over the ocean, away from human eyes.

Sporadic meteors bring as much as 15,000 tons of space debris to Earth each year, McKeegan said. He explained that meteors -- hunks of rock and metal from space that fall to Earth -- burn up as they pass through Earth's atmosphere, which is what caused Friday's bright flash of light.

He said it was likely smaller than another meteor that landed in the Bay Area in October causing a loud sonic boom as it fell, breaking apart and spreading rocks, called meteorites, in the North Bay.

It also happened about 24 hours after a huge meteorite fell from the sky over Russia's Chelyabinsk region, resulting in a powerful blast that injured nearly 1,000 people, mostly from shattered windows.

A video surfaced on YouTube within an hour of the fireball sighting.

Entitled "Shooting Star across San Francisco 2/15/2013 7:44PM," the video depicts a view of the light show as the witness drove south on I-280 toward the peninsula.

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