Around 6:30am Wednesday morning Susan calls Jim howling, “Did you see it?!”
“Did I see what?” a sleepy Jim mumbles. “THE CRAZY BLUE LIGHT IN THE SKY!” she exclaimed.
Meteor? Space Launch? …On Sanibel?
The confusion was shared by many that morning, as photos like Susan’s were captured everywhere from Sanibel, up to St. Petersburg, over in Miami and as far south as Key West. In fact, the unusual lights caused such a stir that the National Weather Service in Miami put out an alert explaining the activity to those who feared it was a massive meteor.
While rocket launches are a normal occurrence for those living on the south-east side of the state, they are a less common sight here on the Gulf Coast. The blastoff of United Launch Alliance Atlas V from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday, however, produced an usually luminous trail, which was seen throughout the southern half of the state.
What’s So Different About This Launch?
The time of day.
With an early morning launch from Cape Canaveral, the Atlas V rocket lit up the pre-dawn sky, leaving a long trail of smoke behind it. Lifting off at just the right time and angle, the smoke from the rockets five boosters caught the first rays of sunrise to create the unique glowing cloud plume seen in the sky.
“It looked as if the rocket was going down, towards the earth,” Susan mentioned, which caused some observers to wonder if it had exploded. However, news stations like orlandosentinel explained that the Earth’s shape and rotation was the cause for this false illusion.
Quickly moving out to space, the United Launch Alliance Atlas V carried a Navy communications satellite known as the MUOS-4. This satellite completes the 4th of a quartet series by the Navy, which will provide better communication signals and worldwide coverage for our military.
This truly unique experience adds to the wonder of living in Southwest Florida. You never know what you’ll see out here on Sanibel Island!
For more information on the recent shuttle launch and the Navy’s MUOS system, check out USA Today’s article here.
To view upcoming space launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, visit the Kennedy Space Center website here.
Learn more about Florida’s “Space Coast” by clicking here.