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Aliens? Even Elon Musk has fun with rocket show

Rocket contrail
The contrail left behind by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch looked like a giant fish in the skies over Southern California. (Elon Musk via Twitter)

The bloom of exhaust that blossomed in Southern California’s skies during Dec. 22’s liftoff of a Falcon 9 rocket sparked jokes and jitters — with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk joining in.

Was it an alien visitation? A North Korean rocket attack? A stunt involving Santa’s sleigh?

Folks who were following the launch of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base at sunset knew full well what it was: a rocket booster’s contrail, catching the last rays of sunlight high above the California coast.

But for a while there, it was a mystery to unaware residents in Los Angeles, San Diego and locales in between. Such displays, including the infamous “Norway Spiral” of 2009, often spark UFO reports.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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