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:


Subscribe to the North Phoenix Newsletter

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

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. .

npneditor has 531 posts and counting.See all posts by npneditor