Meteor Lights Up Northern Californian Sky

Chad Baker/Photodisc/Thinkstock (file photo)(SAN FRANCISCO) -- A meteor lit up the skies over the Bay Area in California Wednesday evening in what experts say is debris from Halley’s Comet.

Hundreds of residents from Oakland, San Francisco and Santa Cruz called ABC News affiliate KGO-TV reporting a loud boom, explosions and streaks of light around 7:45 p.m. local time.

NASA.com reported that the 2012 Orionid meteor shower is set to peak Saturday night into Sunday morning.

“Earth is passing through a stream of debris from Halley’s Comet, the source of the Orionids,” Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office said in the NASA.com report.

Excited residents took to Twitter and YouTube to post photos and videos of the streaking comet.

“Happened to look over, saw like a crescent shaped object, reddish orange in color,” Edward Pierce told KGO.  “As it went away it started getting larger.  Kind of expanding.”

The National Weather Service says warm temperatures and cloudless skies are helping to make the bright lights more visible.

“Basically, you saw small car-sized pieces of rock and metal from the ashtray belt, crashing through layers of earth’s atmosphere, ionizing and setting the air on fire in its wake,” Jonathan Braidman, astronomer at the Chabot Space and Science Center, told KGO.

The Orionids are one of two annual meteor showers produced by icy pieces of Halley’s Comet.  The other shower, called the Eta Aquarids, peaks each year in early May, according to NASA.

“Since 2006, the Orionids have been one of the best showers of the year, with counts in some years up to 60 or more meteors per hour,” NASA’s Cooke said.

Halley’s Comet might just be the most famous comet of all time, passing earth every 75 to 76 years.  The last time it passed earth and was visible with the naked eye was in February 1986.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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