SpaceX's first launch from California on Sunday (Sept. 29) gave some unsuspecting observers a little more than they bargained for. People on the ground in southern Africa and the islands of Mauritius and Reunion started reporting an unidentified object flying the sky about an hour after the Falcon 9 v1.1 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Alan Boyle at NBC News reports.
A video taken in Mauritius shows a spooky looking glowing orb shining in the sky. While reports of a UFO abounded, Greg Roberts, an astronomer from Cape Town, South Africa, explained what the mysterious sight really was to The New Age. The orb was created by fuel or propellant released by the rocket's second stage, Roberts said.
After the Falcon 9 deposited its payload in orbit, the second stage released the remainder of its fuel to prevent an explosion during re-entry. Coincidentally, sunlight shined down on the fuel, making it glow. See a video of the "UFO" below:
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Miriam Kramer joined Space.com as a Staff Writer in December 2012. Since then, she has floated in weightlessness on a zero-gravity flight, felt the pull of 4-Gs in a trainer aircraft and watched rockets soar into space from Florida and Virginia. She also served as Space.com's lead space entertainment reporter, and enjoys all aspects of space news, astronomy and commercial spaceflight. Miriam has also presented space stories during live interviews with Fox News and other TV and radio outlets. She originally hails from Knoxville, Tennessee where she and her family would take trips to dark spots on the outskirts of town to watch meteor showers every year. She loves to travel and one day hopes to see the northern lights in person. Miriam is currently a space reporter with Axios, writing the Axios Space newsletter. You can follow Miriam on Twitter.