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May 19, 2022
SpaceX Starlink launch spawns spectacular glowing cloud in predawn sky

SpaceX Starlink launch spawns spectacular glowing cloud in predawn sky


The aftermath of a SpaceX Starlink launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 6, 2022 sprawls across the sky before dawn in this stunning view. (Image credit: SpaceX)Space coast residents got a treat early Friday (May 6) when SpaceX’s the latest Starlink satellite fleet launch spawned an eerie glowing cloud that shined like some medieval fantasy monster in the predawn sky.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket topped with 53 of SpaceX’s Starlink Internet satellites successfully lifted off at 5:42 a.m. EDT (0942 GMT) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Professional photos from SpaceX captured the spectacular predawn launch as it streaked over the Atlantic Ocean, lighting up the clouds. This was the 12th launch for this particular Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage, tying a company reuse record, and the first stage once again landed at sea on top of one of SpaceX’s drone ships.

Related: SpaceX’s Starlink megaconstellation launches in photos

Floridians and visitors to the coast also caught views of the glowing rocket as it made its way high into the atmosphere. This type of effect is called a “space jellyfish”, which is produced due to a combination of the Falcon 9’s exhaust and the timing of the launch, as our sister website LiveScience pointed out.

SPACE JELLYFISHFrom today’s SpaceX launch. Beautiful pic.twitter.com/98mzIGHDOmMay 6, 2022

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The exhaust exiting the nozzle was “under-expanded,” meaning the gas was at a higher pressure than the surrounding air. The rising sun, very close to the horizon, then illuminated the exhaust plume and caused the bright glow, Chris Combs, a professor of aerodynamics and mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at San Antonio explained on Twitter.

The pretty physical phenomenon showed up in videos, pictures and even in a pool’s reflection as local social media users captured their views of the sky.

SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida’s Space Coast at first light Friday with 53 Starlink internet satellites, capping an all-nighter of operations five hours after returning four astronauts to a splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico.📷: @mdcainjr https://t.co/DbXKnvEoDf pic.twitter.com/ozaqKEjNnhMay 7, 2022

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B1058 completing its 12th launch putting on a show over the Atlantic Ocean just before sunrise! Another batch of Starlink satellites are now in orbit as #SpaceX continues their rapid launch cadence! #Falcon9 📸 for @Teslarati pic.twitter.com/CxKROMmKz7May 6, 2022

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Beautiful pre-dawn launch from Cape Canaveral of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and 53 Starlink satellites this morning pic.twitter.com/8cFjS210ZKMay 6, 2022

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Very beautiful view from Jacksonville Florida. #SpaceX #Falcon9 pic.twitter.com/lmpAxmaW3aMay 6, 2022

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As the sun comes up over #backyardswamp, the remnants of SpaceX launch are reflected in the pool. pic.twitter.com/EbzAUTZcpXMay 6, 2022

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Watched an awe inspiring rocket launch this morning. Found out this phenomenon is called a “space jellyfish.” Pretty incredible stuff. #SpaceX pic.twitter.com/sZKW27cOpNMay 7, 2022

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Great launch! pic.twitter.com/w39khFSdJpMay 6, 2022

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Nothing like a early morning launch!! 🤯🚀 #SpaceX #Starlink pic.twitter.com/VbNYDPcmilMay 6, 2022

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Hey SpaceX do more of these pre dawn launches please and thank you pic.twitter.com/R26rqYCQGIMay 6, 2022

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🚀 Wow, this was an interesting view from the predawn launch of the #SpaceX Falcon 9 today, you can clearly see the first stage entry burn and the second stage continuing to orbit. @elonmusk 📷:me for @SuperclusterHQ pic.twitter.com/tLp9Qj7EiZMay 6, 2022

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Such a cool thing to watch from my front yard 🤍 #nativefloridian #SpaceX pic.twitter.com/AeSKTd1d7eMay 6, 2022

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This morning when Dad and I were outside just before sunrise, we got to see the Spacex booster re-entry. Pretty cool! Hope something pawsome happens in your life today! Happy Fri-YAY😘🐾🐾🥳🥳 pic.twitter.com/Khfu6BAu98May 6, 2022

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Here’s a more traditional launch view of from SpaceX of its 53 new Starlink satellites soaring to orbit on top of a Falcon 9 booster on May 6, 2022. (Image credit: SpaceX)Editor’s note: If you captured a stunning view of the SpaceX’s Starlink satellite launch on Friday and want to share it for an image gallery or story, let us know! You can send images and comments in to spacephotos@space.com.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. 

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a contributing writer for Space.com since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she tackles topics like spaceflight, diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth’s on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada’s Carleton University. Her latest book, NASA Leadership Moments, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.

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