Fleeting Wonders: Watch the Atlas V Rocket Scribble All Over The Florida Sky - Atlas Obscura
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Fleeting Wonders: Watch the Atlas V Rocket Scribble All Over The Florida Sky

What is this huge spoon scooping up the Florida skyline? (Image: veroskibum/Youtube)

What is this huge spoon scooping up the Florida skyline? (Image: veroskibum/Youtube)

Floridians up before dawn this morning were treated to a strange, unearthly sight—a plume of light arcing over the skyline, looping, expanding, and dissipating into strange cloudy shapes.

It was not a space lasso, nor a joyriding bird with chemtrail wings—it was the Atlas V rocket, carrying a satellite from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to ”a geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles over the equator,” writes James Dean at Florida Today.

Atlas V’s cargo is the fourth of five planned satellites in the U.S. Navy’s “Mobile User Objective System,” aka MUOS, which will allow troops in remote locations to stay in contact with each other by “enabling hand-held radios in the field to work much like smartphones.” At 9:15 a.m., almost three hours after takeoff, the satellite separated from the rocket as planned.

 United Launch Alliance, which oversaw the launch, credited the impressive visual display to good timing. ”The sunlight happened to come through it at the proper time,” ULA’s John Hilliard told Bay News 9. When it hit the plume—the combined product of five rocket boosters—the result was visible throughout Florida, from St. Petersburg on Florida’s gulf coast all the way down to Key West.

The launch resulted in such spectacular visuals that it “had some people wrongly worried the rocket had blown up,” the Orlando Sentinel reports. The National Weather Service Miami proactively Tweeted down other potential speculation, assuring its followers that “the strange light/cloud in the sky this morning” was “not a meteor.” Just a young satellite practicing getting phones buzzing. 

Atlas V takes off with the New Horizons probe in January 2006. (Photo: NASA)

Atlas V takes off with the New Horizons probe in January 2006. (Photo: NASA)

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to cara@atlasobscura.com.