The Brilliant California Fireball of Dec. 19, 2018 in Photos

Meteor Trail Over Lake Tahoe

David Smoyer

A brilliant fireball lit up the skies over California on Dec. 19, 2018, and left a spectacular, wind-twisted trail behind it. See photos here and read an eyewitness report by's Mike Wall!

In this photo, he dazzling meteor is seen in a photo by David Smoyer from the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe.

Reflection in Still Waters

David Smoyer

The meteor trail's reflection in Lake Tahoe shines in this stunning shot, also by David Smoyer.

Lit from Below

David Smoyer

Though the sun had already set, the meteor trail was high enough up in the sky to still catch some rays.

An Unforgettable Sight

David Smoyer

"I've been lucky enough to see a lot of meteors, and lots of bright fireballs, including dozens during the 2001 Leonid meteor storm outburst, but this was the brightest and most impressive I can recall," Smoyer told via email.

Fireball Over San Francisco

Ghia Jacobs

Ghia Jacobs captured this image of the fireball from San Francisco shortly after it blazed up, before it had developed its long and twisting tail.

Wind-Whipped Tail

Kevin Haas 

High-altitude winds twisted the meteor's once-straight trail into a corkscrew shape, as this photo by Kevin Haas shows.

Meteor Trail San Francisco

Mike Wall/

The meteor's wind-twisted trail, seen from western San Francisco.

The View from Reno

Laura Lea Evans

Laura Lea Evans snapped this shot of the meteor from Reno, Nevada, on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Smoke Trail in the Sky

Adam Larson

Adam Larson took this photo of the Bay Area fireball.

Fireball Seen from San Rafael

Mark O'Lone

Mark O’Lone captured this view of the fireball's trail from San Rafael, just north of San Francisco.

Fireball Seen from Vandenberg AFB

Ryan Watamura

Ryan Watamura saw the fireball from the vicinity of Vandenberg Air Force Base while waiting for the launch of the NROL-71 spy satellite. (The launch was scrubbed.)

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.