Did you see it? Early morning rocket launch had some viewers rattled

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch that sent 53 Starlink satellites into orbit at 5:42 a.m. Friday left some News4JAX viewers scrambling to get photos of the unexpected object in the sky.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch that sent 53 Starlink satellites into orbit this morning at 5:42 a.m. left some News4JAX viewers scrambling to get photos of the unexpected object in the sky this morning.

Our newsroom was flooded with calls and messages asking what the bright light was that soared overhead.

The launch from Cape Canaveral could be seen at least as far north as Savannah, according to the photos we received.

SpaceX regularly sends these launches into orbit -- but not often so early in the morning.

Meteorologist Danielle Uliano explained why the launch looked particularly magical Friday morning. It’s something called the twilight phenomenon.

“This happens when exhaust particles from the rocket left in a vapor trail of a launch vehicle condense, freeze, and then expand in the less dense upper atmosphere,” Uliano said. “Leaving us with an illuminating exhaust plume against a dark sky by reflecting high-altitude sunlight and producing a colorful effect seen from ground level.”

She said a twilight phenomenon typically occurs with launches that take place 30 to 60 minutes before sunrise.

News4JAX Insider Malorie Rooney from Jacksonville sent in this photo with the caption: “What is this?! Night rainbow?? A shooting cloud? Aliens?”

And Chad Hallman sent in this photo reading: “I was lucky enough to catch this view while on patrol in Vilano Beach.”

The SpaceX rocket’s first-stage booster returned to Earth, landing cleanly on a drone ship.

It was just the latest development in what was already a busy day for SpaceX.

Early Friday morning, a SpaceX Dragon capsule splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa, Florida.

It safely brought back to Earth four astronauts who had ended their six-month stay on the International Space Station a little less than 24 hours earlier.

Besides Rooney and Hallman, many viewers sent us photos of what they saw in the sky Friday morning during the launch, asking for help to identify the streaking object. Rest assured, it was not aliens among us.

(At least not this time 👽 -- but “the truth is out there.” Sorry, couldn’t help it. The inner sci-fi nerd came out.)

Viewer Kevin Hemphill emailed a pair of amazing photos from the launch this morning:

Many thanks to our Insiders who also shared their images on SnapJAX. Many of them recognized the soaring object as a rocket launch.

Here are a few of their photos:

Viewer Celena Carr shared this incredible photo of the rocket launch this morning from Cape Canaveral. (Photo provided)
Insider Abbie Tyson in Jacksonville said, "Beautiful looking SpaceX launch."
Insider Phyllis in Lake Butler definitely knew it was a rocket in flight this morning.
SnapJAX user NatNat in Jacksonville snapped a quick photo at a stoplight.
Insider Casey Krupinski captured this look at the rocket from Middleburg.
SnapJAX user LowKey said, "Beautiful sight this morning."
Insider Dan Smith in Middleburg recognized it was a rocket launch this morning.
Lindsey Clawson in Jacksonville caught the rocket soaring by.

If you happened to capture the launch this morning, feel free to become a News4JAX Insider and send us your photos. Just go to news4jax.com/snapjax.


About the Author:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.