If the recent news about three high-profile asteroid flybys — one of which was reported in the Bay Area — has you suddenly interested in the science of space rocks, you're in luck.
The East Bay is home to the Chabot Space and Science Center, a beautiful facility that offers viewings of the heavens from three state-of-the-art telescopes on Friday and Saturday nights. (It's open on President's Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
A Smithsonian affiliate, Chabot is an 86,000-square-foot educational science center whose mission is, "...to educate students of all ages about the planet and the universe."
It offers interactive space and science exhibitions, digital-dome planetarium shows and MegaDome shows. Chabot's research-quality telescopes are the largest open to the public west of the Mississippi.
Jonathan Braidman, an astronomer with the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, said that it appears that the three astronomical events seen recently are unrelated.
The destructive meteor fall in Russia — reported to have injured 1,000 people — the asteroid flying closer to Earth than the orbit of the moon, and the meteor spotted in the Bay Area seem to be moving in different trajectories from the evidence he's seen, indicating they are from different points of origin, Braidman said.
Bay Area stargazers caught a glimpse of the Bay Area meteor over the Peninsula Friday. Social media users reported seeing the blue flash of the meteor flying west at about 8 p.m., and sightings were reported throughout the Bay Area, from Santa Clara to Fairfield, and even in the Central Valley cities of Fresno and Stockton.
Based on reports, Braidman said that it seems Friday's fireball was what astronomers call a "sporadic meteor," an event that can happen several times a day but most of the time happens over the ocean, away from human eyes, and brings as much as 15,000 tons of space debris to Earth each year.
Meteors, 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 Friday's bright flash of light, Braidman 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.
— Bay City News contributed to this report.