Weird Streaking Light over California Could be Meteor, Say Experts

A still image of the light from a  video  posted to social media site Reddit.  (Image credit: u/mikehtiger / Reddit)

A still image of the light from a video posted to social media site Reddit. (Image credit: u/mikehtiger / Reddit)

A strange light that streaked across the sky over California on the evening of December 19th could be the result of sunlight reflecting off of the trail left by a meteor, according to experts.

"Still not 100% certain, but evidence is growing the object seen was a meteor," the National Weather Service (NWS) tweeted following the incident. "A meteor can create a very high level cloud called a noctilucent cloud."

The mysterious light appeared in the sky over northern California that Wednesday evening just after 5:30 p.m., and was witnessed by a multitude of commuters on their way home from work—many of whom took to social media to share photos and videos of the event.

Witnesses were quick to speculate about the light, but seemed more curious than concerned.

"I thought somebody was trying to spell something out in the sky, but I couldn't read what it was," Aparna Sarma told ABC7 News. "So, I just moved on with the rest of my night."

Some considered whether the phenomenon could be a portent, while others expressed their opinion that it might be a UFO.

"I saw a moving cloud, then it formed into a question mark. I don't know, maybe it's a sign," pondered Palo Alto resident Ransom Soderberg.

"I'm definitely a big believer in UFO phenomenon," Elizabeth Matuzak said. "I definitely think it's a UFO."

One thing is for sure: it wasn’t a rocket launch. Rocket launches planned at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Santa Barbara and by Space X for that evening were scrubbed and didn't happen.

The Lick Observatory corroborated the NWS's suspicions by posting on Facebook that a "bright meteor was visible in the skies over the Bay Area shortly after sunset this evening, leaving a bright trail that was visible for many minutes in the western sky," and that photos showed "how the trail was illuminated by the Sun after sunset and changed shape with the upper level winds in the atmosphere."

KABC news out of Los Angeles reported that Griffith Observatory director Dr. Edwin Krupp confirmed that the strange streak of light was a bolide meteor that entered the Earth's atmosphere.

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Tobias Wayland