When a huge Atlas 5 rocket blasts off at night, photographers pay attention. And last night's rocket launch was no exception.

The unmanned Atlas 5 rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California yesterday (Sept. 20) to send a new classified satellite for "national security" into orbit for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, Air Force officials said. The satellite, while secret, is called NROL-41.

This stunning photo was taken by photographer Pat Corkery for United Launch Alliance, the joint Boeing-Lockheed Martin venture that provided the Atlas 5 rocket for last night's launch. Here, the 193-foot (59-meter) rocket is shown just after engine ignition.

Liftoff at 9:03:30 p.m. PDT (0003:30 EDT, 0403:30 GMT), about a half hour later than planned due to a parked car in a restricted zone, which caused a slight delay.

Launch close-ups aren't the only stand out photos from the Atlas 5 launch.

In this image below, the rocket appears to be riding the tip of a spear of light as it soars into space.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Andrew Lee snapped the long-exposure view of the liftoff.

The Atlas 5 launch that sent the NROL-41 satellite into space was the second of three scheduled September launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Unlike civilian or routine military satellite launches, the NROL-41 satellite's mission is a secret. The National Reconnaissance Office imposed a media blackout on the satellite's status as the mission approached the 4-minute mark to maintain security.