The normally jam-packed 405 freeway in Los Angeles, California looked different during rush hour (at approximately 5:27 p.m.) yesterday on Friday evening as several cars pulled over and got out of their vehicles to try to understand what was happening in the sky. It clearly wasn't that famous L.A. smog or Saint Nick's sleigh— so what was it?
Southern Californian witnesses from San Diego to Orange County reported hearing a loud "boom" sound before they saw the giant white orb in the winter sky. Residents speculated that the strange object could have been everything from a meteor, the aftereffects of a plane crash or perhaps even a missile interception.
Recent reports confirmed that the strange sky sighting was due to a contrail from the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that was scheduled for liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base yesterday evening. The Vandenberg Air Force Base is located in Lompoc of Santa Barbara County, California and according to reports, the air force base sent out a notice, warning Southern Californian residents that the rocket would be in flight yesterday and that the launch would be visible throughout Southern California but it appears that many residents didn't get the memo.
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The Patch reported that witnesses claimed to see the glowing trail of light for about ten minutes after the big orb was first seen. Residents were shaken up as noted by many panicked Tweets, Facebook posts and YouTube uploads. One Twitter user, @ShotOn35mm, wrote, "I don’t know what I just saw. Giant orb of light in the sky flying over LA" and then later, posted the much calmer, "Ok so it was a rocket. For about 10 minutes I thought the world was about to end...."
Indeed, many people were terrified at the prospects of what the oddity could be before the news of the rocket launch had been confirmed. One YouTube video showed the glowing orb drifting through the sky while the person recording asked in a scared voice, "But what is that?"
A Falcon 9 rocket recently launched in June from the same air force base but apparently, the people of Southern California didn't notice the orb then or it wasn't as visible due to the light summer sky conditions.
Friday's launch closes out a record-breaking launch campaign for SpaceX in 2017 with the total delivery of ten or more voice and data relay satellites for Iridium Communications, a global satellite communications company, into orbit. This was the eighteenth Falcon 9 mission for SpaceX this year and it was only the fifth time that a Falcon 9 rocket was launched with a reused first state booster.
Iridium Communications spent around three billion dollars on their next-generation network to make sure that their nine hundred thousand plus customers have quality service on their devices as well as new state-of-the-art features. Southern Californians can breathe a deep sigh of relief and continue on with their merry holiday plans now that the truth of the mystery in the sky has officially been solved.