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Fireball over N. California causes stir

Traveling at 33,000 mph, a massive meteor hit the Earth's atmosphere creating a giant shockwave that blew out windows of glass, injuring nearly 1,000 people and creating panic. On the same day, an asteroid half the size of a football field came within 17,000 miles from Earth. NBC's Tom Costello reports.

A fireball streaking across the Northern California sky Friday night brought a flood of witness reports -- the same day that a meteor exploded over Russia and an asteroid made a near-Earth fly-by.

The fireball was seen around 7:45 p.m., by witnesses as far north as Fairfield and as far south as Gilroy, NBCBayArea.com reported. It was also reportedly seen in Sacramento and Walnut Creek. NBC station KSBW of Monterey said the object was visible along California's Central Coast, too.

NBCBayArea.com said Candice Guruwaiya gave this account on Facebook of seeing it in San Jose: "I was leaving Safeway on Branham and Snell when I saw it. ... It was a bright green when it first appeared, then it went to a bright yellow. It was awesome!"


The fireball was seen about 24 hours after a meteor exploded over Russia's Chelyabinsk region and a 150-foot-wide asteroid came within 17,200 miles of Earth.

An astronomer at the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland told NBCBayArea.com that Friday night's event wasn't related to the asteroid's passing:

Gerald McKeegan, an astronomer at Chabot, said he did not see it, but based on accounts he thinks it was a "sporadic meteor," which can happen several times a day but  most of the time happens over the ocean, away from human eyes. Sporadic meteors bring as much as 15,000 tons of space debris to Earth each year, according to McKeegan. He explained that meteors, which are hunks of rock and metal from space that fall to Earth, burn up as they go through Earth's atmosphere, which is what apparently  caused tonight's bright flash of light.

He said it was likely smaller than another meteor that landed in the Bay Area in October, which caused a loud sonic boom as it fell, breaking apart and spreading rocks, called meteorites, in the North Bay.

More about the cosmic hits (and near-misses):

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, speaks to NBC's Lester Holt about the meteor and asteroid that approached Earth on Friday.