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Southern California Sees This in the Sky, and Freaks

Turns out it wasn't a UFO
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 23, 2017 6:22 AM CST
Southern California Sees This in the Sky, and Freaks
In this photo provided by Javier Mendoza, the contrail from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is seen from Long Beach, Calif., more than 100 miles southeast from its launch site Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017.   (Javier Mendoza via AP)

(Newser) – An alien invasion? A North Korean attack? After Southern Californians saw a bright white streak and blooming cloud light up the night sky Friday, hundreds called 911, scared, reports ABC News. The culprit was much more benign: SpaceX, though Elon Musk's tweet of video of the cause, a Falcon 9 rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, Calif., was cheekily labeled, "Nuclear alien UFO from North Korea." Hours later, he tweeted, "If you liked tonight’s launch, you will really like Falcon Heavy next month: 3 rocket cores & 3X thrust. 2 cores return to base doing synchronized aerobatics. 3rd lands on droneship."

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The AP reports the rocket was carrying the latest batch of satellites—10 of them—for Iridium Communications. It's part of a contract that will see SpaceX update the Iridium system via 75 new satellites by mid-2018. This same Falcon 9 rocket carried some into orbit in June, though it launched from a platform in the Pacific. (Read more SpaceX stories.)

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