DEC 27, 2017 4:11 PM PST

The Aerial Remnants of SpaceX's Most Recent Rocket Launch Explained

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

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.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch on December 22nd left behind an unusually-bright display in its path.

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:

Related: SpaceX is getting excited about its upcoming Falcon Heavy rocket

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

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
AUG 26, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Planet-wide Rainstorms Created Lakes on Ancient Mars
AUG 26, 2020
Planet-wide Rainstorms Created Lakes on Ancient Mars
Researchers from the University of Texas have found that a huge amount of liquid water likely rained down from the skies ...
OCT 03, 2020
Space & Astronomy
NASA Launches $23m Toilet to Space Station
OCT 03, 2020
NASA Launches $23m Toilet to Space Station
On late October 2nd, NASA launched a spacecraft carrying 4 tonnes of cargo, including scientific equipment, food hardwar ...
OCT 08, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
How much radiation do super flares emit?
OCT 08, 2020
How much radiation do super flares emit?
Research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill published in Astrophysical Journal contemplates the amount ...
OCT 09, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Ultra-hot Exoplanet Vaporizes Iron in its Atmosphere
OCT 09, 2020
Ultra-hot Exoplanet Vaporizes Iron in its Atmosphere
Researchers from the University of Bern in Germany have found that an exoplanet, known as WASP-121b, is so hot that it c ...
NOV 13, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Researchers Observe the Birth of a Magnetar
NOV 13, 2020
Researchers Observe the Birth of a Magnetar
Scientists think they have witnessed the birth of a magnetar for the first time, when a massive burst of gamma rays took ...
NOV 24, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will extend sea level monitoring
NOV 24, 2020
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will extend sea level monitoring
Days ago, a new satellite was launched from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with the ...
Loading Comments...