Wild shooting star seen over California 'wasn't a natural fireball'

"Never saw anything like this in my life. Crazy," said one eyewitness.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser

This zoomed-in look at the reentry of the space debris comes from AMS/AllSky6 camera operator Bob Lunsford.

Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Some lucky people in California caught sight of an epic fireball streaking across the sky Wednesday night. It lingered, and then broke up into multiple bright pieces.

This wasn't a typical meteor. The American Meteor Society quickly analyzed the information. "Based on the reports and videos we received about this event, we can confirm that it wasn't a natural fireball but rather a space debris reentry," the AMS said in a statement Thursday

AMS/AllSky6 camera operator Bob Lunsford captured a great view of the action from El Cajon, California. AllSkyCams is a network dedicated to tracking meteors.

The AMS collected more than 60 reports from eyewitnesses. "Never saw anything like this in my life. Crazy," one person said

The sighting sent the hashtag #meteor soaring on Twitter as viewers shared their videos. Twitter user Stan Moroncini reported that it lasted at least 20 seconds.

The shooting star also prompted some Transformers jokes about the Autobots arriving on Earth. 

Our planet is surrounded by a lot of space junk, some of which finds its way back into the atmosphere where it can burn up and deliver quite a light show. For the record, no Autobots were found.

NASA says goodbye to Spitzer: See the telescope's most astounding images

See all photos