Northern California Meteor: 4 Good Videos

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

This article is more than 4 years old.

If you're on the internet right now -- and, oh that's right, you are -- you're probably aware that a streaking light in the sky just after sunset had many in the Bay Area, Wednesday, reaching for their cellphones. The mysterious trail of light was visible for several minutes.

It was not aliens or the anticipated rocket launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, which was scrubbed, but a meteor, according to the Lick Observatory, near San Jose. The trail it left behind was smoke created by its disintegration in Earth's atmosphere.

The National Weather Service added that the meteor may have created what's called a noctilucent cloud, one that is still illuminated by sunlight after the sun appears to have set for those on the ground. (For more details, see below.)

The meteor was unusual for a couple of reasons, says Ben Burress, a staff astronomer at Chabot Space & Science Center who also writes for KQED. First and foremost, it fell over a region where and a time of day when people could actually see it.

"Often these things happen over the ocean or unpopulated areas. They're not as rare an event as people think," he said.

Second, the object's trail was particularly long-lived, probably because it was larger than your typical meteor. Usually, the objects, made of rock and metal, are marble-size or smaller.

The cloud's unusual wiggly shape can be attributed to the varying strengths and directions of the winds as the object plummeted through different altitudes.

Here are some more videos captured by the public:



Here's what NASA has to say about noctilucent clouds:

Anyone who's ever seen a noctilucent cloud or "NLC" would agree: They look alien. The electric-blue ripples and pale tendrils of NLCs reaching across the night sky resemble something from another world. Researchers say that's not far off. A key ingredient for the mysterious clouds comes from outer space."We've detected bits of 'meteor smoke' imbedded in noctilucent clouds," reports James Russell of Hampton University, principal investigator of NASA's AIM mission to study the phenomenon. "This discovery supports the theory that meteor dust is the nucleating agent around which NLCs form."

Danielle Venton contributed to this post.