SpaceX Starlink launch spawns gorgeous dawn clouds in Florida sky

noctilucent clouds over a black horizon
Noctilucent clouds can happen in the upper atmosphere after launches. (Image credit: NASA/Dave Hughes)

Shiny clouds lingered in the Florida sky in the hours after SpaceX launched its latest mission from the Space Coast early Thursday morning (Jan. 26).

SpaceX launched 56 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 4:32 a.m. EST (0932 GMT). The predawn launch produced noctilucent clouds that were visible after the launch, according to local reports posted on Twitter.

"These never get old and are different after every launch," posted meteorologist Wright Dobbs, who viewed the clouds from Tallahassee, a four-hour drive away from the launch site, which is near Orlando.

Noctilucent clouds are rare high-altitude clouds that can also appear naturally, but only when specific conditions are fulfilled. In general they are visible in the summer months, after sunset, and are distinctive wispy streaks that stand out from other cloud types. 

Related: SpaceX's Starlink megaconstellation launches in photos

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It's common for SpaceX launches to leave behind intriguing sky patterns, including  "space jellyfish" or spiral shapes high in the sky. These are harmless effects resulting from rocket gases high in the atmosphere.

SpaceX has launched six times this year so far and could get to 100 liftoffs overall in 2023 across its various programs, including launches to the International Space Station with astronauts on board, as well as forthcoming opportunities with the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and potentially the giant Starship Mars rocket, which is still in development.

Editor's note: If you captured a stunning view of the SpaceX launch and want to share it for an image gallery or story, let us know! You can send images and comments in to

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: