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Atlas Rocket Lifts Off In Florida, Delivering A Spectacular Sky Show

A view from west Orlando shows an Atlas V rocket flying into sunlight, creating a unique light show last month in Orlando, Fla.
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A view from west Orlando shows an Atlas V rocket flying into sunlight, creating a unique light show last month in Orlando, Fla.

It was a routine launch for the Atlas V booster, which was carrying a Mexican satellite into orbit as it lifted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral on Friday morning. But the rocket's expanding exhaust plume was anything but ordinary.

Florida Today reports: "The rocket bolted from Launch Complex 41 with 1.6 million pounds of thrust, lighting up a low deck of clouds before shooting through into darkness."

The resulting show, as evidenced by photos posted to Twitter, was amazing. You can see more at the newspaper's gallery, here.

"Simply put, it was due to the sun's angle at time of launch," Col. Shannon Klug, commander of the Air Force's 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron, is quoted by Florida Today as saying. "The sunrise highlighted the normal expansion of the exhaust plume which expands as the atmospheric pressure decreases with altitude. The rays of the sun caught the expanding gasses just right and ... magic!"

Exactly a month ago, a similar Atlas V launch produced similarly stunning photos, such as the one at the bottom of this post.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.

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