Twilight rocket launch causes sky to glow over Desert Southwest

The rocket carried 53 Starlink satellites from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. – A Falcon 9 rocket launch from the central coast of California Thursday caused millions of residents across the Southwest to see a spectacular sight courtesy of a phenomenon that only be described as breathtaking.

The SpaceX launch of 53 Starlink satellites from Vandenberg Space Force Base went off without a hitch, but because of the timing and clear skies, the setting sun illuminated the rocket’s exhaust, making it appear as if the sky was filled with tentacles of a giant jellyfish.

The twilight phenomenon usually only happens just before sunrise and a few minutes after sunset, when the sky is still illuminated and is not entirely dark.

The FOX Forecast Center received reports from Los Angeles, Phoenix and outside of Las Vegas - all with spectacular imagery to back up the claims of a gorgeous launch.


Launches from Vandenberg Space Force Base are common, but the timing with the setting sun has to be perfect for the light to illuminate the crystals in the exhaust plume.

The launch also featured a landing of a booster on the drone shop called "Of Course I Still Love You," which was deployed in the Pacific Ocean.

The next launch from Vandenberg will likely be less picturesque but significant for the advancement of weather technology.

An Atlas V rocket with a satellite that will monitor extreme weather is scheduled to liftoff from the Space Force base at 2:25 a.m. on Tuesday.