Strange Streak In Bay Area Sky Was Probably a Meteor

December 20, 2018
Bay Area meteor (Photo credit: Firefly Restaurant/KCBS Radio)

(Photo credit: Firefly Restaurant/KCBS Radio)

(KCBS RADIO) — The strange, bright shape streaking in the sky Wednesday night was most likely a meteor or other debris burning up as it entered the atmosphere, astronomers have said. 

People throughout the Bay Area, Sacramento and other parts of California saw a flash around 5:30 p.m. Witnesses flooded the KCBS Radio newsroom with questions and reports of seeing the likely meteor. 

"Way up there, 40 or so miles up, the sun hasn't set, so those particles can reflect sunlight and that's what's causing the streak to glow for quite some time," said UC Berkeley astronomy professor Alex Filippenko. 

The loopy trail was probably caused by "winds up there that move particles around and alter what was initially a straight line into a sort of curvy pattern," he said to KCBS Radio. 

The object was probably the size of a baseball, according to Flippenko, which made it a "pretty big rock." 

As a comparison, the recent Geminid shower that dazzled sky watchers was produced by "flecks of ice and dust," Filippenko said. 

The National Weather Service had initially speculated that it was a "cloud feature" but later concluded that it was a meteor.

A satellite launch had been scheduled for Wednesday evening from Vandenberg Air Force Base, leading many to wonder if that was the source of the heavenly entertainment. That launch was scuttled, however, due to technical problems.