Professional observers say streaking fireballs lighting up California skies and stunning stargazers are part of a major meteor shower, and the show is just getting started.

Meteor over the Bay-Area (Photo: Instagram user DHawk_19)

The Oakland Tribune reports the exploding streaks were seen especially over the San Francisco Bay area and other parts of Northern California, with reports of bright fireballs and loud booms from Santa Cruz County to Mendocino County Wednesday night.

"Happened to look over, saw like a crescent shaped object, reddish orange in color," Edward Pierce told KGO-TV. "As it went away it started getting larger. Kind of expanding."

Jonathan Braidman, an astronomer at Oakland's Chabot Space and Science Center, told the station what Pierce and others saw were small, car-sized pieces of rock and metal from the ashtray belt.

It crashed through the earth's atmosphere, "ionizing and setting the air on fire in its wake," he said.

National Weather Service forecaster Steve Anderson tells the Tribune that warm temperatures and cloud-free skies are making the bright lights more visible, a phenomenon that should only increase as the weekend approaches and the shower continues.

The fireballs are part of the large, fast Orionid meteor shower, so-named because it has the Orion constellation as a backdrop.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.