ST. GEORGE — That wasn’t a comet, drunk skywriter or a conspiratory chemtrail in the western sky above Southern Utah around 7:20 Thursday evening.
It was a gift from Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk.
A launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base near Santa Barbara, California, carrying 53 more Starlink internet satellites took a more eastern path than past launches. This allowed Southern Utah and Arizona observers to have a view of the rocket’s trail, which is normally reserved for those in Southern California and Florida.
The launch took place at 7:14 p.m. MDT, and the trail left by the launch was immediately noticeable in the local western sky. Initially looking like a comet, the tail of exhaust gave the impression of sailing near a crescent moon.
The trail spread out with it no longer being held by air pressure as the rocket left the atmosphere behind. The trail was also brightly illuminated white in the dusk as it was high enough to still be illuminated by the already-set sun.
It was possible to see the first and second stages of the Falcon 9 separate. Like most Falcon 9 rockets, the first stage eventually landed under rocket power, rather than parachutes, on a barge in the Pacific Ocean.
The rocket launch wasn’t the only stellar phenomenon gracing the local skies this week. On Monday, a bright fireball meteor was seen just after dusk.
On Thursday, it was announced that SpaceX and Starlink’s owner Musk has taken ownership of Twitter as well.
The Starlink satellites released by the rocket initially will form another Starlink train that might be seen in the local sky like previous Starlink trains. When they spread out, the satellites will join others to provide internet for Starlink customers.
Southern Utah residents Payton and Lucy Pehrson were in Bloomington when they captured the launch on video, which can be seen at the start of the story.
A video of the launch from SpaceX’s feed and additional photos from Southern Utah residents can be seen below.
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