If you paid any attention to the internet last week, then you might have stumbled upon a few eerie images of SpaceX’s most recent Falcon 9 launch.
Image Credit: Javier Mendoza/AP
After taking off from the launch pad located at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on December 22nd, 2017, the Falcon 9 rocket left behind a dazzling display in the night sky that many locals mistook for alien activity.
But no… aliens had nothing to do with it folks. Instead, there’s a perfectly logical explanation concerning what happened the night this unusual display appeared in the sky.
When a rocket takes off, the chemical reaction powering the booster engine generates a lot of exhaust. Along with all the heat and gasses that get emitted from the tail end of the rocket during this combustion process is a ton of moisture.
Most people never get to experience what it’s like at the high altitudes that a rocket reaches when delivering a spacecraft into space, but let’s just say it’s freezing up there. Coupled with the Winter season’s extraneous chill, the sky was so cold at the time of the launch that the exhaust moisture condensed and froze up in the middle of the sky.
In short, this is what you saw in the sky that night, assuming you had the opportunity to see it. If you didn't, check it out below:
The spooky remnant left behind by this reaction is known as a contrail; the same thing happens when airplanes and jets reach certain altitudes in the sky. While many incorrectly refer to these as “chem-trails,” it’s nothing more than a reaction taking place in the harsh environment high up above the ground.
Notably, not all of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launches look this profound from the ground, but the conditions were just right this time around. Consider it a bit of sky-based eye-candy in time for the holiday season.
Source: Popular Science