SpaceX put on a quite a show above Southern California Friday evening, as a Falcon 9 rocket slowly streaked across the night sky while curious onlookers snapped photos and recorded video.
At first mysterious, the white light appeared during the evening rush hour, sparking questions and speculation from the many onlookers who observed the object but could not immediately identify it.
KTLA began receiving numerous phone calls shortly after 5:30 p.m., when a brilliant but slow-moving light — somewhat resembling a jellyfish-like creature — made it was across the sky. Around the same time, the newsroom received numerous photos and videos showing the bright, glowing object; a number of Twitter users followed suit, posting images as they sought answers.
The bright light was widely seen across the region, with photos submitted from Santa Barbara County down to Orange County. It was spotted as far away as Arizona, video from a rooftop camera in Phoenix showed.
Some speculated the “strange light” was a UFO, or perhaps a celestial phenomena such as a comet or meteor; others suggested the object was a bomb or missile.
A short time after its appearance, multiple local law enforcement agencies confirmed the flash of light was from the rocket launch, which blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base along California’s Central Coast. The sighting also prompted the Los Angeles Fire Department to issue an alert.
SpaceX livestreamed the event on its Facebook page. CEO Elon Musk later posted video of the launch to his personal Twitter account, accompanied by the tongue-in-cheek caption, “Nuclear alien UFO from North Korea.”
Vandenberg Air Force Base announced earlier this week the launch was set for 5:27 p.m. Friday from Space Launch Complex-4. The base said it was the “fourth Iridium mission consisting of 10 satellites on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.”
A website that lists launches at Vandenberg noted prior to the event that “the rocket’s bright flame could be visible over a wide area.”
Space Launch Complex-4 is along the Pacific Ocean coast west of Lompoc in Santa Barbara County, about 140 miles west-northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
The SpaceX launch was the final scheduled one out of Vandenberg this year, and officials deemed it a success.
KTLA’s Melissa Pamer contributed to this story.
The twilight effect from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched Friday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California carrying 10 Iridium voice and data relay satellites into orbit put on quite a light show. This view is from US Hwy 101 and Padaro Lane in Carpinteria. pic.twitter.com/tcDjPDLsrN
— SBCFireInfo (@EliasonMike) December 23, 2017
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch from Vandenberg AFB lights up the Southern CA sky. pic.twitter.com/bCg6Bmx2dM
— Corona Police Dept. #CoronaPD (@CoronaPD) December 23, 2017
— Burbank Police (@BurbankPD) December 23, 2017
— Dave Mecham (@DaveMechamTime) December 23, 2017
— Kacey Montoya (@kaceymontoya) December 23, 2017
— Nancy (@neashley) December 23, 2017
— ANGIE SANCHEZ (@ANGS1710) December 23, 2017