February 7, 2018

It's a Bird! It's an Angel! No, It's Falcon Heavy!

Mars-bound rocket gives Southwest a sky spectacle.

Falcon Heavy Photo CHECK FOR USE The plume from Falcon Heavy's second stage engine created an unusual show in the skies above the Southwest, Feb. 6, 2018. (PHOTO: Jeremy David/@JDavidPhotos)

Just after 7:30 Tuesday night, people across the Southwest saw an unusual glow appear to bloom in the sky for a few minutes and then fade away.

Several immediately took to Twitter to ask about the source of the mystery shape. Some users thought a missile had launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Vandenberg had been scheduled to launch a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, but the test was cancelled on short notice.

Tucson photographer Jeremy David took one of the clearest images, and also correctly guessed its source.

"That moment when you are out testing gear and realize what is happening right in front of your lens!! I think this might belong to @elonmusk," he tweeted.

The Falcon Heavy rocket, built by Elon Musk's SpaceX company, launched from Cape Canaveral six hours earlier. People across the southwest saw the rocket's second stage firing to boost its payload, a red Tesla Roadster with a space-suited mannequin in the driver's seat, out of earth orbit.

Musk said the rocket performed better than expected, sending the sports car on a path that will take it beyond Mars, and partway to the asteroid belt.

By posting comments, you agree to our
AZPM encourages comments, but comments that contain profanity, unrelated information, threats, libel, defamatory statements, obscenities, pornography or that violate the law are not allowed. Comments that promote commercial products or services are not allowed. Comments in violation of this policy will be removed. Continued posting of comments that violate this policy will result in the commenter being banned from the site.

By submitting your comments, you hereby give AZPM the right to post your comments and potentially use them in any other form of media operated by this institution.
Arizona Public Media broadcast stations are licensed to the Arizona Board of Regents. Arizona Public Media and AZPM are registered trademarks of the Arizona Board of Regents.
The University of Arizona