As the skies above them lit up with strange lights and sights on Wednesday night, the social media timelines of Californians living in and around the San Francisco Bay Area exploded with videos and pictures and comments of the visual phenomena taking place above their heads.
But the bright streak across the Californian sky, in the shape of a question mark, what many speculated to be alien spacecraft, or clandestine government experiments or any manner of Unidentified Flying Object(s) turned out to be identified, after all. It was still pretty cool; just not Roswell-Area 51 cool.
The CBS in San Francisco spoke to Bing Quock, assistant director of the Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences, who said that the Lick Observatory had determined the mysterious light trail was a bright meteor.
“A very bright meteor that fell through the atmosphere, and it took place shortly after sunset so that the contrail that was left behind was still lit by the sun,” Quock said, adding, “And when upper winds in the atmosphere blew the contrail into nicely contorted shapes that looked like a strange glowing curlicue in the air that baffled a lot of people. But very likely just a bright meteor.”
What gave rise to more speculation was that the bright jet stream-like formation could have been caused by a rocket launch scheduled at the nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base, but that launch had been scrubbed early Wednesday evening, as announced by the authorities earlier.
Launch Alert: we have declared a scrub for today's launch of the #DeltaIVHeavy. We will set up for a 24 hour recycle and the next launch attempt will be 12/20 at 5:31pm PST.— ULA (@ulalaunch) December 20, 2018