The Navy fired an unarmed missile from a submarine off the Southern California coast on Saturday, creating a bright light that streaked across the state and was visible as far away as Nevada and Arizona.
Cmdr. Ryan Perry, a spokesman for the Navy, said the Navy Strategic Systems Programs conducted the missile test at sea from the USS Kentucky, a ballistic missile submarine.
“The tests were part of a scheduled, on-going system evaluation test,” Perry said in a statement.
Perry said the launches are conducted on a frequent basis to ensure the continued reliability of the system and that information about such test launches is classified prior to launch.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department also confirmed the test launch of an unarmed missile.
“The light seen in the 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. JWA tower refers to John Wayne Airport which is in Orange.
The lack of information about the streak of light around sunset led to a flurry of calls to law enforcement agencies and lit up social media as people posted photos and video of the light. Many people claimed the light could’ve been a meteor, a missile or a visit from extraterrestrials.
The claim of a meteor could have been plausible because of the ongoing Taurid meteor shower that is taking place between Nov. 5 and Nov. 12 and is expected to be more active than usual this year, according to NASA.
It wasn’t clear whether the test was related to the rerouting of nighttime flights into and out of Los Angeles International Airport because of an active military airspace from Friday to Nov. 12.
Flights usually arrive and depart over the ocean from midnight to 6:30 a.m. to minimize noise, but they will have to go over communities east of the airport.
The test was conducted in the Pacific Test Range, a vast area northwest of Los Angeles where the Navy periodically test-fires Tomahawk and Standard cruise missiles from surface ships and submarines.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.