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What was that? Unusual Atlas V launch trail raises eyebrows

PALATKA, Fla. – The vapor trail left behind from the launch of Atlas V early Thursday morning looked really unique, even scary at times.

News4Jax viewer Richard Loosemore captured video of the trail in the early morning sky outside of a donut shop in Palatka.

GALLERY: Rocket launch lights up Florida sky

Other viewers who were unaware of the launch were so unnerved by the sight that they shared their photos and videos with News4Jax asking: What's this?

Here's a quick explanation of why the launch looked like something out of an alien invasion movie:

The air coming out of the rocket to propel it forward is significantly hotter than the air it is traveling through. The dramatic difference in temperature causes the water in the air it is traveling through to condense into tiny ice crystals after it passes by, forming a vapor trail. 

We had clear skies during the predawn hours of the launch. The vapor trail was much higher in the sky than the ground level, and sunlight at that level illuminated the vapor trail and was even iridescent looking at times as the ice crystals created spreading of the light spectrum.


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