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Meteor the Size of a Car Hits Bay Area

A meteor that hit the Martinez Hills area Wednesday night is not part of the Orionid shower, astronomers say. Reported by Bay City News Service.

A large meteor streaked across the night sky tonight and was seen and heard throughout the Bay Area.

Sky observers took to social media to report that they had seen a bright fireball with hues of red and orange break up overhead shortly before 8 p.m., accompanied by a loud boom.

The sound was so loud, some residents reported it shook their homes, making them think it may be an earthquake.

Jonathan Braidman, astronomy instructor at Oakland's Chabot Space and Science Center, said the meteor likely hit the Earth around the Martinez Hills and was roughly the size of a car when it broke up over the Bay Area.

Braidman said that hikers may be able to find small pieces of the meteor, called meteorites once they land on Earth, in the hills north of Martinez.

Meteors are hunks of rock and metal that have broken off from asteroids and fallen from space, breaking up as they enter Earth's atmosphere.

Braidman said that the meteors hit the upper layer of Earth's atmosphere traveling 25,000 mph or more, but the atmosphere slows them down and breaks them up so that when they hit the ground they are only traveling between 200 and 400 mph.

Tonight's meteor appeared for about four or five seconds and was traveling fairly slow compared to some other meteors, indicating it was probably fairly large.

But the boom that residents heard was a sonic boom, caused by the falling object traveling faster than the speed of sound, and was probably moving at over 1,000 mph, Braidman said.

Braidman said that the meteor is not at all related to the Orionid meteor shower expected to peak over Saturday night and Sunday morning.

A meteor shower is actually not an accurate name for this weekend's phenomenon, Braidman said, and that the "shooting stars" that stargazers will see this weekend are in fact small pieces of comet.

The Orionid phenomenon is predictable because it occurs when Earth passes through the trail of Halley's Comet, but tonight's meteor sighting is far less predictable, despite that as much as 15,000 tons of material falls from space each year.

"Even though this kind of thing happens often, it's pretty rare for people to see it," Braidman said.

He said that often such material may not fall in a populated area, potentially just falling into the middle of the ocean.

But stargazers can increase their chances of seeing a meteor or other astronomical phenomenon by going somewhere dark, away from city lights.

The Young Observatory at Pacific Union College in Angwin is open to the public, weather permitting, Friday nights for skywatching.

Sightings of the meteor were reported throughout the Bay Area from Santa Cruz to San Jose, Oakland, Pacifica, Daly City, Sausalito, and even in Davis.

—By Bay City News Service


Mary Richardson October 18, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Wow! That's a great picture!
not available October 18, 2012 at 08:31 PM
yes I saw it in Napa ca. clear as can be! It was amazing!
Jesuit Finder October 19, 2012 at 06:09 PM
This is just the beginning. Read the book Great Controversy by Ellen White. www.ktfministry.org
Jesuit Finder October 19, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Pacific Union College | Seventh-day Adventist Christian Education www.puc.eduOfficial site Over 40 Pacific Union College students helped Napa Valley senior citizens with home repairs and other needs in the first volunteer service project of the year on
Richard W February 18, 2013 at 07:35 PM
I bet at least as many mormons, and 20 times as many catholics helped...where does it end, this vain GLORY seeking?? Wars, bloodshed...broken homes, I've seen it with my own eyes

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