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Meteor flash gets mashed up with launch scrub

Rocket fans in California may have been disappointed by tonight’s scrub of a Delta 4 Heavy launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, but they received a nice consolation prize: a fireball that left what looked like a contrail hanging in sunset skies.

The bright squiggle in the sky may have mystified some, but savvy folks who spotted the flash recognized it as the signature of an exploding meteor, also known as a bolide.

It was pure coincidence that the fireball flashed at 5:34 p.m. PT, just before United Launch Alliance called off the launch of a classified spy satellite known as NROL-71 for the National Reconnaissance Office, due to elevated hydrogen levels that were detected during the countdown.

Video views captured from cars traveling in locales including Sacramento, Stockton and the San Francisco Bay Area helped solve the celestial mystery.

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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