November 7 – California Fireball

A brilliant fireball was seen over California during the early evening of November 7 at around 5:10 pm. Quite a few reports have been posted in the comments sections on this blog.

A comment posting by Rich gives a rather detailed observation of the event:

“11/07/2009 at approximately 1700hrs we were driving south form Santa Rosa on Hwy 12 and were passing through Sonoma when we noticed a large brilliant white fireball in a SSW direction. It first caught our attention at about 20 to 25deg off the horizon. Our visual on it only lasted only about 3-4 seconds then just before passing the hills in the distance it seemed to go out. There was no associated noise or sign of impact. It was just gone. There was a smoke or debris trail that we could see after the object was gone that was visible for perhaps a minute or so then it was dispersed by the wind.”

Pictures of the residual smoke trail can be seen on the Spaceweather.com site.

Additional news stories were published by the Daily Democrat, San Francisco Chronicle, Contra Costa Times, and others.

The fireball was most likely caused by a small asteroid, probably no larger than a basketball. Though it is possible it may have been related to the Taurid meteor shower which is near its maximum in activity, it could easily be unrelated to any shower. The very bright slow fireballs are usually asteroidal in origin while meteor showers are usually produced by comets.

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About Carl Hergenrother
I am a professional astronomer specializing in the study of comets, asteroids and meteors. This blog will focus on my professional and amateur work in this field

10 Responses to November 7 – California Fireball

  1. Reg says:

    On November 7, 2009 around sunset, I was driving northbound on US 101 15 miles south of Santa Maria, California. Fireball started directly north at approximately 40 degrees above the north horizon, headed vertically and burned-up (disappeared) approximately 3-5 degrees above the north horizon. Head of fireball well formed burning sphere, with long tail and sparks. At about 8 degrees above the horizon the head split into two pieces.

  2. ayse says:

    I was also driving on Nov 7 from Davis to Palo Alto, and on i80 I saw around the early evening something fall from the sky. At first it looked like a brilliant shooting star…but it kept going. All of a sudden within a few seconds it got very large and became a fireball that seemed to land in the meadows ahead….which are mainly curvy hills and cow pastures. I was thinking it might be space junk. I heard no impact and didn’t see smoke. I wonder what it was.

  3. Colleen says:

    On Nov 7th @ 5:10pm, my son, Shane, and I were driving near Lake Merced in San Francisco towards Ocean Beach. We saw a hugh ball of white light fall towards the ocean. It left a trail of smoke and light debris as it fell. It fell fast, however, it burnt out before it reached the ocean. Something must have fallen in the water. We felt pretty close and it was exciting to see! Colleen and Shane

  4. Bill says:

    At 1709 PST on November 7, as I was sitting in my car in Palo Alto on Sheridan Avenue facing El Camino Real, I say a brilliant fireball with a luminous shock wave and tail. It entered my field of vision at an elevation of about 30 degrees and appeared to descend behind the Stanford foothills toward the ocean. I heard no supersonic shock wave. The meteor took about 5 seconds to cross my field of view.

  5. Angela Omran says:

    Wow! I’m so glad I was not the only one to see this incredible sight! I thought I was seeing things. I was traveling southbound on HWY 1 in Pacifica, apx. 1/4th of a mile north of Devil’s Slide. I noticed a large ball of fire shooting toward the earth and then it disappeared, leaving a long trail of smoke/debris behind. I literally had to ask myself if I really saw it! I expected to hear/see fire engines racing to the mountains east of Half Moon Bay, CA. Apparently the location of the meteor is alusive since it has been sighted in so many places. I’d love to hunt for the remains…how fun!

  6. LC says:

    I too am happy to see similar accounts of what I saw last night. At 11:50 pm high in the SSW sky there was a slow moving white fireball going from west to east. It broke into at least 3 smaller pieces and left a trail of debris. Sweet.

  7. Sonja says:

    Hi, Wed night Nov 18th around 7pm we saw a brilliant fireball cross the sky above Santa Maria California. It was greenish in color. Was it a comet or meteor? Thank you!

  8. Brett says:

    My wife and I also saw this event from the 10 Freeway heading toward Redlands, CA from Beaumont, CA. The trail was long and visible in our field of view for approximately 5 seconds. We did not see the source burn out prior to it passing behind Mt. Baldy from our perspective.

  9. Minh says:

    I also saw it. On Nov 7, 2009, at 5:12 pm, I was at home in the Civic Center area, looking out the window opened Southern toward Twin Peaks / Lake Merced. I saw the burning fireball — comet or meteorite element type — brightly coming down in a shooting hyperbolic trajectory, and exhausted before hitting the ground level. The smoke trail caused by it slowly dispersed for half an hour, proven the event had happened, and not my imagination. I’m glad to know other people saw it too.

  10. AceM says:

    I saw a falling object with a bright white tail and a blue outline in the sky near my house around 10 pm last night 10.12.2010. It burned out, but, seemed close enough to be in a canyon near us. I got so excited my husband almost crashed the car. Unfortunately, I was the only one in the car to see it, so my 11 year old son doesn’t believe me. It seemed so close that I thought the hills could catch fire, but, they didn’t. It was such a fantastic sight that I was curious to know if anyone else saw it. It sounds like it may be meteorite? after reading your comments here. How lovely it was and lasted at least 5 to 10 seconds.

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