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.
I THINK WE JUST SAW A UFO IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PLS EXPLAIN pic.twitter.com/TVsUJjmpR9
— hib (@hibabadook) December 23, 2017
Even Elon Musk, SpaceX boss and noted Twitter fan, decided to have some fun with the UFO rumors.
Nuclear alien UFO from North Korea pic.twitter.com/GUIHpKkkp5
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 23, 2017
Unfortunately, he later second-guessed the humor of it all.
Having a sinking feeling that most people actually do think it was aliens …
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 24, 2017
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.