When SpaceX launched a rocket with an Argentine Earth observation satellite from California, both the night sky and social media illuminated.
People as far away as Phoenix and Sacramento published pictures of the Falcon 9-race launch and return on Sunday evening. It was the first time SpaceX landed a first-step booster back at the launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 1
The Air Force warned residents on the central California Coast see several engine burns in the first step and hear one or more sonic bombs when it returned.
But many were surprised when the launch illuminated the sky and wondered what the other world looked like. Some speculated that it was a comet or a foreign aircraft.
"Something exploded in the sky west of Phoenix" wrote Laura Gadbery on Twitter. "Does anyone catch it or know what it was?"
Lloyd Lawrence, another user in Phoenix-more than 530 miles (853 kilometers) from the launch site, said he was driving on Interstate 10 when he saw the launch and "could not believe my eyes."
"I wondered who held the giant flashlight in the sky, "he wrote.
California from Los Angeles to Sacramento over 340 miles (547 kilometers) from launch
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was among those who tried to clear the speculation, tweeting a photo of the launch and writing: "No, definitely not aliens."
Those who knew they watched a satellite launch posted videos captured by the amazing spectacle, including one taken over the Los Angeles skyline and a schedule from Kern County.
The main purpose of the SpaceX mission was to place the SAOCOM 1A satellite in orbit, but SpaceX would also extend its recovery
SpaceX had previously flown first-rate rockets back to land after Florida launched but did not do it on the west coast.
SpaceX has also successfully landed Falcon 9 first stages on so-called drone ships offshore Florida and California, all as part of its effort to reduce the cost of space launches by reusing rockets rather than letting them fall into the ocean.
The satellite is the first of two for Argentina's space agency, Comision Nacional de Actividades Espaciales, and will work in conjunction with a constellation of the Italian Space Agency's satellites. Its acronym is short for satellite Argentino de Observacion Con Microondas.
SAOCOM 1A has a high resolution instrument called a synthetic aperatradar used for disaster management and disaster management. The other satellite will be SAOCOM 1B.
Rockets carrying Argentine satellite take off successfully