12:33 AM: Have just received two reports of this, one a text, and then this e-mail from Chas in Gatewood:
No images - but sitting upstairs looking West (past my computer screen), just saw a giant green fireball enter over what looked like Kitsap Peninsula - green streak coming from high in sky (limit of window), turning yellow and ending in large (5 times apparent diameter of moon) green fireball just above what looked like the mountains - couldn't really tell how far it was except for the brightness and detail suggested it was relatively close (within hundred/or so miles). About 3 minutes ago for timing (like 12:20am or thereabouts).
We had heard of a possible meteor shower tonight. Looking it up now.

12:48 AM UPDATE: Thanks to "Meteorologist Patrick" (as we know him) Kelly - who mentioned via Twitter that it's the Quadrantid meteor shower, which Space.com is covering here. This WashingtonPost.com story has details too - apparently the shower is peaking right now (convert the WP times to three hours earlier, of course).

12:55 AM: Someone at the National Weather Service saw it too:

1:39 AM: West Seattle's own NASA Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen has shared some info in comments, starting here. She suggests that anyone with a west-facing surveillance camera should check to see if it caught anything around 12:20 am (and if you have any kind of image, still or video, please let us know, would love to add it to the story - thanks!).

Reader Comments
I work in an office on Lake Washington facing North and saw this fire ball falling off to the Northwest at roughly 1230 am. It did not appear very far away. There was a smoke trail that was lit up, very bright.

Comment by Dan - 12:46 am January 3, 2013
Spectacular, green, much larger and brighter than the moon. Mayan apocalypse maybe?

Comment by brin - 12:49 am January 3, 2013
The text was from me, I was calling my dogs back in from letting them out to go potty and could not believe what I saw. A huge green ball followed by a long orange/yellow streak heading west of where I am ( Highland Park) I have never seen anything like this before! I have grown up in WS and my mom would have us all lay out during meteor showers to watch but this was like no other. Amazing.

Comment by Theresa Beaulieu - 12:52 am January 3, 2013
I saw the whole sky light up green coming from the west at about 12:30am. I am in British Columbia, just North of Sumas

Comment by SW BC - 12:54 am January 3, 2013
Hmm. I wanted to call this a bolide meteor, because that's my understanding of the word bolide, but it seems the geologists have co-opted that term since I was last in school. Now (and probably always, since I'll bet my memory is faulty) "bolide" refers to meteors that are big enough to make it all the way through the atmosphere, crash into the Earth making a crater and becoming a meteorite.

What you saw (you lucky ducks!) was "just" a meteor... though a very, very awesome one. It looks like even "fireball" implies a larger object. Most meteors are the size of a grain of sand, but "fireball-like" exploding meteors could be more like grapefruit-sized. We can't predict them - just times when they're more likely, as during certain meteor showers. These bright meteors can also happen randomly, just like any other kind of meteor.

If anyone asks, it probably never hit the ground, though sometimes these bright meteors look like they did! Firstly, it mostly disintegrates in the upper atmosphere, and secondly, west of us is the Pacific Ocean. Since meteors generally are seen VERY high up, it wouldn't have the right angle to come down on the peninsula somewhere.

Here's an article I wrote about what you're seeing when you see a meteor or shooting star. It's pressure that causes most of the visible glow.

In the case of a bolide/fireball/exploding meteor, some of that light is the actual meteor exploding.

The quadrantids aren't usually the most active shower, and we miss them anyway because we're often socked in with clouds this time of year.

If you know someone with a west-facing security camera, call them up and ask them to review the tapes! I'm sure WSB and local news are hoping, hoping, hoping someone caught it.

Comment by Alice - 1:31 am January 3, 2013

Comment: It is not "pressure" that causes the light - like comets, fireballs are electrical phenomena. How else can we explain that they are being reported as "brighter than the sun"?

If it was coming in from the northwest or west, I'm afraid it probably wasn't a Quadrantid meteor. Sounds like a random bolide to me.

Comment by James - 1:42 am January 3, 2013
Suddenly woke up at around 12:30 am and looked outside just in time to see a huge white ball changing color a little bit descending straight down. Not like high up in the sky but literally like right past Lincoln Park! Totally freaked me out as I thought it was possibly a leftover big firework from New Year's Eve that someone had shot off. As I woke up more I realized it was a one time event with no sound so i quickly started searching the web. Found this NASA site which helped and happy to know other people saw it too. How cool! http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/watchtheskies/quadrantids_2013.html. So happy for clear skies in Seattle tonight!

Comment by Abby - 1:45 am January 3, 2013
I witnessed the meteor mentioned as well. I am located in Nanaimo, BC. On Vancouver Island. My view was pretty much due west from up to downwards. Was one of the brightest displays I have ever seen. Occurred at 1220 am.

Comment by terry - 2:13 am January 3, 2013
I also saw this...on my pourch in shoreline...like a shooting star then it changed color to a green ish yellow..looked like it was falling strait down...after it dissapered from my sight due to a tree line but there was an after glow the tree line light up in that greenish color..i'm not the only one who saw this..cool...

Comment by jennifer - 4:02 am January 3, 2013
I think I saw a meteor small green fireball land and extinguish up close last night after midnight. My window faces west over the 5 freeway, at the Olive street exit in lower Capitol Hill. I saw the fireball extinguish just before it appeared to hit the ground. It appeared to hit the ground just on the opposite side of the 5 freeway next to the Springhill Suites Marriott building. I thought it was a hoax or fireworks because I have never witnessed a meteor land so close.

Comment by E - 9:55 am January 3, 2013