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See the night sky ‘bleed’ after a SpaceX rocket blasts through the atmosphere

Published Jul 31st, 2023 6:51PM EDT
SpaceX rocket

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Last week, SpaceX made headlines again after a Falcon 9 rocket blasted a hole through the atmosphere, leaving a trail of reddish, pink trail of blood across the night sky. The bleeding hole left by the rocket was captured in several amazing images, including one spectacular image from photographer Jeremy Perez, who shared the shot on his Instagram.

Perez captured the shot of the SpaceX atmosphere hole and the reddish light trail it created from the San Francisco Volcanic Fields, located north of Flagstaff, Arizona. The trail was only visible across some points in California and Arizona, but it was quite spectacular to behold, according to Perez.

“After the rocket passed overhead, a red fluorescent glow expanded south and crossed over with the Milky Way in the sky,” Perez told Perez captured several shots of the glow, which some have described as a bleeding hole in the atmosphere. The glow lasted just around 20 minutes.

The reason for this glow, and for similar glows seen in the past, is due to the holes that rockes often punch through the ionosphere. These holes aren’t dangerous to us here on the surface, but the way that the gases interact with the solar radiation beyond the ionosphere causes the glowing effect – sometimes even seen as a whirlpool in the sky.

These effects have been known about since at least 2005, when a titan rocket first triggered what scientists refer to as “severe ionospheric perturbations.” These “perturbations” are essentially the same as a minor geomagnetic storm hitting the ionosphere.

These light shows are only likely to become even more common, too, as more private companies continue to launch rockets into space. So the next time you see a strange glow of light across the sky, it’s most likely the result of a SpaceX (or another company’s) rocket piercing a hole in our atmosphere and the exhaust interacting with solar radiation.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.