SAN FRANCISCO – Hours after a meteor exploded over Russia and injured more than 1,000 people and an asteroid passed relatively close to Earth, residents in California reported seeing an unusual flash of light over the San Francisco Bay area that left many startled and thrilled.
Based on reports, the light streaking in the Northern California sky was a sporadic meteor, or fireball, and not a major event, said Mike Hankey, operations manager for the American Meteor Society, based in Genesee, N.Y. The group recorded at least 35 reports of the event, he said.
“Fireballs happen every single night, all around the world,” he said.
Experts say smaller meteorites hit earth five to 10 times a year, but chances of a large meteor passing, such as the one that streaked over Chelyabinsk, Russia, are much rarer. Another meteor landed in the Bay Area in October and caused a loud sonic boom.
On Friday, the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland also reported receiving calls describing what appeared to be a fireball flying west around 8 p.m.
Jonathan Braidman, an instructor at the center, described the object based off reports as likely being a small piece of an asteroid that “somehow” got on a collision course with Earth.
“This is a very common occurrence,” Braidman said. “What is uncommon is that it’s so close to where people are living.”
While Friday night’s fireball received a lot of attention in the San Francisco Bay area, Braidman said about 15,000 tons of debris from asteroids enter Earth’s atmosphere every year.
“Usually, these things break up into small pieces and are difficult to find,” he said.