Amazing Views of SpaceX Rocket Launch That Surprised Phoenix Residents

It was not a “nuclear alien UFO from North Korea,” as the person with the most inside information jokingly tweeted last night. It was a dramatic, eerie, momentarily inexplicable sight, as people around the Valley gathered gathered together in the chilly darkness, looked skyward, and swiftly texted friends and family, asking what the heck was that two-tailed comet-like object pushing across the horizon, seeming to have emanated from a bizarre luminous cloud on an otherwise black night?

It didn’t take long for the answer to spread: Elon Musk’s SpaceX company had launched a rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California. One of the best local videos was taken by the Phoenix CityCam, mounted atop City Hall:

Phoenix photographer and filmmaker Mike Olbinski seems to have been caught off guard, too, but wow:


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While perspective made the rocket appear to travel horizontally or even downward,  the SpaceX Falcon 9 booster did in fact propel 10 communication satellites upward into orbit. Musk, known to have a good, dry sense of humor, offered a different interpretation of the whole thing:

Many people in California were just as surprised as Arizona sky-gazers, and their ringside view made the sight all the more amazing as the rocket lit up the sky about 30 minutes after sunset, local time. Here’s a real-time view …

… and a sped-up version …

… and another view that shows just how wild it must’ve seemed from the Los Angeles region:

For a great explanation of why the rocket left such a bright, dramatic cloud behind, see this article by atmospheric science expert Marshall Shepherd. Meanwhile, where it all began …

spacex rocket launching
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch on Dec. 22, at 5:27 p.m. PST. Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jim Araos
spacex rocket launch
A view of the SpaceX rocket launch from near the launch site. Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jim Araos
Robert Roy Britt
NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites Space.com and Live Science. He has written four novels.
Robert Roy Britt on Email

Robert Roy Britt

NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites Space.com and Live Science. He has written four novels.

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