Meteor Shower lights up Southern California

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Meteor shower

LOS ANGELES - The flashes and bright lights that were reported across Central and Southern California on Wednesday night likely were long-lasting meteor streams known as the South Taurids, according to the National Weather Service.

The Taurids are known for having exceptionally bright meteors. On Wednesday night, people used Twitter to describe what resembled a meteor shower, bright lights or fireballs in the sky.

Mary Slosson said she driving eastbound on the 10 Freeway when saw a “flareup” that “looked like something burning up upon entry into atmosphere” over the Culver City area.

The flash of light caused drivers to hit their brakes and swerve to catch a glimpse, Slosson said.

Another person in Hollywood said he saw what appeared to be a “pretty substantial fireball in the sky.”

In northern San Diego County, a woman said she saw the “sky light up super bright.”

And in Fresno, a woman said she “saw something that looked like a huge shooting star falling.”

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.

Sightings were reported as far away as Texas.