LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Residents from around the Southland reported seeing a large light streak across the night sky Wednesday.
Authorities tell CBS2 and KCAL9 that the object appeared to be a meteor.
Many calls came into law enforcement agencies from Riverside, La Quinta and Rancho Mirage. CBS2 and KCAL9 also had reported sightings throughout Orange County.
One viewer, named Myriam R., was driving west on the 118 Freeway when she said she saw a large fireball around 7:50 p.m.
“I thought it was a plane,” she said, “but it was too fast.”
A witness named Fabian sent CBS2/KCAL9 video from a security camera in his front yard in Sylmar.
“At first I thought it might be fireworks,” he said. “It was kind of greenish, and it was large. And then it broke apart.”
He added, “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
Other sightings were reported in Arizona, Utah and Las Vegas.
Scientists predicted a meteor shower that occurs every year about this time. But they also say we haven’t seen anything yet.
So-called Taurid meteor showers, which seem to come from the direction of the constellation Taurus, will reach their peak this year on Nov. 16 through the early morning of Nov. 17. Observers, aided by a full moon, will see 10 to 20 large fireballs every hour.
The website PlanetSave.com says the 10-to-20 figure is actually fewer than we normally get in this time period, but that it still promises to be “a pretty good show.”
KCAL9′s Serene Branson spoke to Dr. Laura Danly, a curator at the Griffith Observatory.
The fireballs are easily explained, Danly said.
“They’re rocks in outer space. They’re chunks of asteroids, called meteroids,” Danly said. “They’re flying into the Earth’s atmosphere and they’re burning up. It’s kind of like when astronauts return to the Earth’s atmosphere and there is all that heat during re-entry. Same idea. These rocks are literally burning up. And that’s what you’re seeing.”
Phone lines at the Orange County Emergency Operations Center lit up. Dozens of OC residents were calling 911 when they saw a green light streak across the sky.
The residents told dispatchers they saw a meteor.
CBS2′s Stacey Butler spoke to witnesses in the OC.
A Mission Viejo man was driving on the 73 Toll Road when he saw the light show.
“I saw this big, greenish flash like, light up the sky,” Matthew Isaacs said. “It was headed pretty sideways from like, east to west. I thought, ‘Is that a firework?’ And then I realized, that couldn’t be that big. It’s just in the middle of nowhere in a totally dark area where there’s no houses or anything where anyone would shoot fireworks. I thought, ‘Man, it must have been a meteor.’”
An astronomy professor at UC Irvine said the green light people saw was oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere.
She said every day, there are about 800 meteors in the Earth’s atmosphere. Most of them don’t ever touch ground and many of them are 100 grams, like the size of a yogurt cup.