When you read and write about space news, new NASA technologies, and alien conspiracies as much as I do, you learn to approach everything you see with an incredibly skeptical eye, but despite my extremely critical approach to UFO “sightings” I found myself second guessing what I was seeing on Friday night. Just after the sun dipped below the California horizon, SpaceX sent its last rocket of the year skyward, dropping satellites into orbit as it cruised along, and the view from the ground was nothing short of jaw-dropping.
When photos and videos began flooding social media on Friday evening it was hard to tell exactly what was happening. Countless observers who didn’t realize a SpaceX launch was scheduled were struggling to come up with an explanation for the incredible sight, and plenty of them thought aliens might have finally decided to pay Earth a visit.
As you can see from the many photos, the rocket’s trail caught the fading sunlight perfectly, creating a really surreal effect.
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The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched into space from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base north of Los Angeles at 5:27 p.m. PST (8:27p.m. EST/0127 GMT) — just 30 minutes after sunset — carrying 10 Iridium Next communications satellites into orbit. The mission was a success, with all 10 satellites reaching their intended orbits. But it was the jaw-dropping views of the Falcon 9 streaking into space that stole the show. Who got to see it? If you missed it last night I have video up on my story.
Even Elon Musk, SpaceX boss and noted Twitter fan, decided to have some fun with the UFO rumors.
Unfortunately, he later second-guessed the humor of it all.
The rocket, a Falcon 9, ferried a payload of ten satellites into orbit. The mission was just the latest in a partnership between SpaceX and Iridium Communications, and the two companies aren’t done yet. SpaceX’s contract with Iridium will see a total of 75 satellites inserted into orbit, and Friday’s launch was the fourth load of ten satellites to be successfully launched.