SAN DIEGO — A streak of light caught the eye of San Diego residents and people across Southern California Friday evening.
The dazzling sight was a fireball, a meteor that burns particularly bright after entering the Earth’s atmosphere, according to the American Meteor Society. The organization registered dozens of reports on the fireball in San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties just after 10 p.m.
Jorden Abarca caught the light show on camera as he drove home in the Harbison Canyon area of East County. He happened to record the flash on the very same day he installed a new dash camera.
Abarca told FOX 5 on Twitter that he initially thought the burst of light was a firework left over from Fourth of July. As the streak went on, it became clear he was witnessing something different.
Abarca’s video shows the fireball appearing in the sky, perfectly framed by the road in front of his car. It seems to burn brightest as it reaches the horizon, disappearing behind a hill.
Viewers around the San Diego area, especially in East County, chimed in online to say they spotted the meteor, too.
The Meteor Society says fireballs are quite common, with hundreds occurring around the world each day. Clear sightings are rare, given that so many of the occurrences take place during the day, in remote areas or after people go to bed. A clear, warm Friday evening in the summer made for more likely conditions to spot the streak.
Mike Hankey, an observer with the Meteor Society, shared information with FOX 5 by email Saturday morning. The organization’s modeling suggests the fireball streaked south along the coast over the ocean, he said.
That information is only an educated guess based on sighting reports, Hankey added. But it suggests that if any debris made it to Earth’s surface in the form of a meteorite — which there was no immediate evidence for — it would not be recovered.
Without multiple videos, it’s not possible to clearly determine the origin and trajectory of the fireball, Hankey said.
Two active meteor showers, the Perseids and alpha Capricornids, could be responsible for fireball sightings this month and next. But according to Robert Lunsford, another observer with the organization, there are no known sources of meteor activity located in the southwestern sky at the time residents spotted the meteor.
“Therefore this fireball was most likely a random occurrence, not associated with any known meteor shower,” he told FOX 5 by email.