Meteor Landed In Hills Near Martinez

A large meteor that was seen and heard throughout the Bay Area apparently fell in the hills north of the city Wednesday night.

by Bay City News Service
A large meteor streaked across the night sky Wednesday and apparently landed in Martinez. It was seen and heard throughout the Bay Area.

Did you see or hear it? Tell us about it in the comments. Post any photos you may have taken of it, too, and share it with others. 

Sky observers rushed to social media Wednesday night to report 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.

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

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

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 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 traveling between 200 and 400 mph.

Wednesday night'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 more than 1,000 mph, Braidman said.

Braidman said the meteor is not 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 last night'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 Chabot Space and Science Center offers two free public star viewings weekly on Friday and Saturday nights starting at 7:30 p.m. In addition to this weekend's Orionid shower, viewers can also catch glimpses of Jupiter, the Moon and nebulae there.

The observatory is located at 10000 Skyline Blvd. in the Oakland Hills.

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

Did you see the meteor? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Patti October 18, 2012 at 03:48 PM
I felt and heard it in Hayward and thought it was an earthquake.
Daniel October 18, 2012 at 04:52 PM
I heard and felt it...I thought it was a door in my home slamming shut.
Ken Rovasio October 18, 2012 at 05:25 PM
My wife and I saw it last night and it was fantastic. It was very bright white with a long tail and lasted about 5 to 6 seconds.
Ken Rovasio October 18, 2012 at 05:27 PM
We saw it from Livermore.
amelia hunter October 18, 2012 at 05:51 PM
My husband and I saw it and heard it from our back yard in Martinez on Talbart St. It lit up the sky around it at it traveled. Then it broke into three balls of glowing orange and disappeared. I told him that it looked like it was going to land right here but he disagreed and said it would be miles and miles away from here. Several moments later, maybe a minute or so we heard a series of booms that sounded like distant fireworks. I almost half expected to hear screams as the meteorites crashed to earth.
Charles E. Coon October 18, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Charlie Coon. .I saw from Antioch, and could hear the wind behind it
C.Brown October 18, 2012 at 06:03 PM
I had one right over my house in Byron last night around 7:30. It was amazing. It looked like a fireball with a long tail, then it shortly dimmed out close to my roof....thought it was going to hit the roof.
Jennifer Brummett October 18, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I saw it last night from Newark. It was awesome! I didn't hear anything though...could've been because I was standing in a busy parking lot in front of Safeway.
Kelly Williams October 18, 2012 at 07:48 PM
I was just getting home to Estudillo St when I saw a flash and everything was lit up; at first I though it was headlights but realized it wasn't and looked up.I don't recall hearing any sound with it but I was in shock watching it. It was huge and seemed to move slowly across the sky! I was so excited I yelled out "Did anybody just see what I saw?" Not a soul was around me to share in the excitement.
Lisa Rox October 18, 2012 at 07:59 PM
My Boyfriends empty house is on Talbert St. His neighbors on both sides called the Martinez PD, because they thought someone was breaking into his home. Mystery solved :)
Karen Sanchez October 18, 2012 at 10:43 PM
My friend and I were sitting on the balcony. I looked up saw a huge yellow white fireball travelling horizontally from south to north. It had a very long tail that was the same color as the fireball. Under the tail it was colored flourescent green. It kept moving, not diving like a falling star. Could not hear the boom because the local high school was having band practice on the football field. VERY BEAUTIFUL !! ! ! ! Karen, Cupertino, Calif
Dick Flasck October 18, 2012 at 10:46 PM
A friend and I were at the Grey Pine Flat at Lake Sonoma near Cloverdale stargazing with my 18" Dobsonian telescope. We were looking south locating the position of Uranus, when we saw this bolide. Limiting magnitude at zenith was about 6.0, so we had a very dark sky. The bolide appeared in the SSW about 15 degrees above the horizon. It travelled due east. It started as a dim shooting star and proceeded to brighten for a few seconds until Grey Pine Flat was bathed in a brightness of maybe three full moons. Color was white to rosy orange. There was no sonic boom. It's disintegration appeared to be in two stages, First a shower of "sparks" was ejected. Then it suddenly crumbled into about two dozen major pieces before it rapidly faded in brightness. It did not seem to be a fast mover. It did not seem to come from the radiant in Orion, so it probably was not an Orionid. All in all, pretty danm impressive. Dick Flasck
Karen Sanchez October 18, 2012 at 10:50 PM
I know what you mean, I was lucky that I wasn't alone...................People might think I was "nuts"
Jim K October 19, 2012 at 03:43 AM
Saw it on my way home while in San Luis Obispo
carleen October 19, 2012 at 05:45 AM
I was in the car with my 8 year old daughter and was so excited I ended up freaking her out and she started crying! She saw it too she was so scared. She said she thought it was the end of the world! I thought it was awesome. Quite a sight to witness.
ted kooij October 19, 2012 at 08:51 AM
I saw it going overhead on its way to Martinez; I live in Virginia! Wow!
Steve Fenton October 20, 2012 at 04:04 AM
I saw a small part of the sky on fire Wednesday night. I saw it as I was getting out of my truck. It streaked rather slowly across the sky and seemed very low heading due north. It moved so slow that I actually tried to activate the video on my phone to catch it, but it died out before I could capture the image. What I saw lasted about 5 seconds. It did not resemble meteors as I know them, nor a bolide which I have seen before. It more resembled some kind of space debri re-entering the atmosphere with flaming pieces breaking away, leaving a trail of sparks and flaming material. It seemed so low in the sky from my vantage point in San Ramon, that I was sure it would hit in Danville or Alamo. I waited for the sound of an impending impact, but never heard one. It looked much like the last shuttle disaster that broke up on reentry. It was more like space junk than a rock.
Mike Schwinn October 20, 2012 at 07:48 PM
I was sitting on my deck in the hills of Pleasant Hill and then the deck lit up like someone turned on the lights. I turned around looked up and it was breaking up right above me. I thought it was fireworks at first. Crazy lucky to have seen it. doubt ill ever see anything like that again unless its the end ;-)
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