Explosive Meteor From Halley’s Comet Lights Up California Sky [PHOTO]

By Amir Khan on October 18, 2012 11:36 AM EDT

Meteor
California skies lit up on Wednesday night as meteor debris from Halley's comet streaked through the atmosphere. (Photo: Twitter)

California skies lit up on Wednesday night as meteor debris from Halley's comet streaked through the atmosphere.

Residents reported hearing a loud boom and seeing explosions around 7:45 p.m., but NASA officials were quick to assuage their fears. Officials said the meteor was part of the 2012 Orionid meteor shower, which is set to peak this weekend.

"Earth is passing through a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, the source of the Orionids," Bill Cooke, with NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, said in a statement.

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The National Weather Service told Good Morning America that warm weather and cloudless skies meant the meteor was especially 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 Good Morning America.

The Orionids are one of two annual meteor showers caused by debris from Halley's Comet. The second shower, the Eta Aquarids, peaks in early May.

"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," Cooke said in the statement. 

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