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SpaceX Starlink launch spawns spectacular glowing cloud in predawn sky

The aftermath of SpaceX’s Starlink launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 6, 2022 stretches across the sky before dawn in this stunning image. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Space Coast residents enjoyed early Friday (May 6) when the latest launch of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites spawned an eerie glowing cloud that shone like some sort of medieval fantasy monster in the predawn sky.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying 53 SpaceX Starlink internet satellites successfully lifted off at 5:42 AM EDT (0942 GMT) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Professional photos from SpaceX captured the spectacular pre-dawn launch as it streaked over the Atlantic Ocean, illuminating the clouds. It was the 12th launch of the first stage of this particular Falcon 9 rocket, setting the company’s record for reuse, and the first stage landed at sea again on top of one of SpaceX’s drone ships.

Related: SpaceX Starlink Mega Constellation Launches in Photos

Florida residents and visitors to the coast also saw the glowing rocket as it rose high into the atmosphere. This type of effect is called “space jellyfish” and is created due to a combination of Falcon 9 exhaust and launch time, as pointed out by our sister website LiveScience.

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The exhaust exiting the nozzle was “underexpanded”, meaning that the gas was at a higher pressure than the surrounding air. The rising sun, very close to the horizon, then illuminated the exhaust plume and caused a bright glow, Chris Combs, professor of aerodynamics and mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at San Antonio, explained on Twitter.

The beautiful physical phenomenon appeared in videos, photos and even in the reflection of the pool as local social media users captured their views of the sky.

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Here’s a more traditional view of SpaceX launching 53 new Starlink satellites into orbit atop a Falcon 9 launch vehicle on May 6, 2022. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Editor’s Note: If you captured a stunning view of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite launch on Friday and want to share it for an image gallery or story, let us know! You can send images and comments to spacephotos@.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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