Witnesses from Southern California to the San Francisco Bay Area on Saturday evening said they saw an unexplained moving light in the night sky that was reportedly an unarmed missile test-fired by the U.S. Navy.
“Light seen in OC sky was confirmed through JWA tower to be a Naval test fire off the coast,” the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said on Twitter, referring to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana.
A Navy spokesman told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the luminous object was an unarmed Trident missile that was test-fired from a submarine off the coast of Southern California.
Cmdr. Ryan Perry, of the Navy’s Third Fleet, said the Trident II (D5) was launched as scheduled by an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine in the Pacific Test Range, the Union-Tribune reported.
“Each test activity provides valuable information about our systems, thus contributing to assurance in our capabilities,” Perry said in a statement released to the newspaper.
Hundreds of residents reported seeing the bright phenomenon shortly after dusk in Palmdale, Riverside, Rancho Palos Verdes, Anaheim and Ventura.
Several observers had speculated that the object may indeed have been a missile or rocket. Others suggested it was a comet or other celestial occurrence.
A spokeswoman for Vandenberg Air Force Base, in Santa Barbara County, said the facility did not launch a rocket on Saturday.
Some initial reports attributed the incident to remnants of the Taurid meteor shower.
According to AccuWeather, cosmic fireballs were expected to occasionally light up the sky as the meteor shower peaked into next week.
“Every year, the Earth passes through a stream left by Comet Encke, producing the Taurid meteor shower,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Dave Samuhel said. “This shower is notorious for producing fireballs, and there are signs that this could be a year of enhanced activity.”
This year, the peak was expected to occur from Nov. 5 through Nov. 12.
Correction: An earlier version of this report erroneously identified the city in which John Wayne Airport is located. The post has been updated.