A bolide or exploding meteor
© NASA , The Province
A bolide, or exploding meteor, similar to this one was spotted in the night sky over the Lower Mainland and Western Washington on Friday night.
Tina Robertson was just trying to catch a stray cat out in front of her property when she heard it.

"It freaked me right out," she said.

Then she looked up to see a "big ball of fire."

"It was moving like hell," she said. "It was big, but not as big as that one in Russia."

What she and other witnesses as far afield as Seattle and Nanaimo seem to have seen around 6:50 p.m. Friday night was a type of meteor known as a bolide. Bolides are as bright as a full moon; they're a meteor that doesn't just burn up as it travels through the atmosphere, it explodes.

(Hat tip to Seattle Twitter user Reb Roush for pointing us all to the term.)

Robertson's partner Wilf Krickhan was loading up fire wood in a bobcat behind the house when he saw the blue-green bolide flash across the sky.

"It had an orange streak behind it," he said.

The couple live on a farm about 25 kilometres up Chilliwack Lake Road. From their vantage point, it looked like the meteor flashed out up the slopes of Mount McGuire, in direction of Vedder Road and the site of the former CFB Chilliwack.

Friday was the start of the Geminid meteor shower, so keep your eyes peeled at the sky for the next two weeks. The peak period will be on Dec. 13 and 14.

People in Seattle saw a bright streak in the sky around the same time, and so did Andrew Arthur, who was driving southbound through Ladner on Highway 17A.

"It was close: cloud level almost. Very bright," he told The Province via Twitter. "Burned up as it travelled southwest."

Across the Georgia Strait, Marc Kurtagic was out for an evening stroll when he spotted the bright light off in the eastern sky.

"It looked like a distant star at first, then became brighter, then produced a green glow with a bright tail," he said over Twitter. Like Robertson, he was reminded of the famous 2013 bolide, captured by video in Chelyabinsk, Russia, but agreed it was much smaller.

"What caught me with surprise was the speed of it. It looked like a plane approaching at night at first," he said.

As for Robertson's stray cat, she still hasn't caught it. She and Krickhan said people keep dropping off unwanted pets up their way and they wish the practice would stop. "It's heartbreaking," she said.