Just days before a highly anticipated meteor shower hits its peak this weekend, the California skies were lit up on Wednesday night by a single spectacular meteor.
The meteor had residents startstruck as it displayed over Northern California 7:44 p.m. PDT Wednesday night, according to scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field.
A local ABC news affiliate reports that the subsequent fireball and sonic boom triggered a flood of phone calls from witnesses to local news stations and authorities, with accounts coming in from across San Francisco and the Bay Area.
"At 7:44:44 pm PDT this evening, a bright fireball was seen in the San Francisco Bay Area," scientists with Ames' Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance (CAMS) wrote in an update. The project is led by meteor expert Peter Jenniskens of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute. "We are checking our CAMS camera results to see if we have a track. Biggest question at the moment is whether this ended over land or ocean."
The California meteor came just days before the highly anticipated Orionid meteor shower peak, which is scheduled to occur overnight on Oct. 20 and 21.
According to Space.com, the meteor shower is created by bits of the famed Halley's Comet as they hit Earth's atmosphere and flare up in fiery display.
Experts familiar with meteor showers of this type say the 2012 Orionid meteor shower should create dozens of meteors an hour, weather permitting.
Because the moon is just a few days past its dark, "new" phase, it won't interfere with the weekend "shooting stars" show.
NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke at the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., who is cited by Space.com, adds that because the moon is just a few days past its dark, "new" phase, it won't interfere with the weekend "shooting stars" show.
The Orionid meteor shower is one of two meteor displays created by Halley's Comet, which makes one orbit around the sun every 76 years. The other is the Eta Aquarid meteor shower, which occurs in May. The two meteor showers are created when the Earth passes through streams of dust cast off from Halley's Comet.