If you've been looking at Twitter or Facebook this evening and have friends in Southern California, you might have seen them post images of a breathtaking sight. It looks like an alien invasion -- or like someone punched a hole in the sky.
In reality, what you saw was a multi-stage rocket launch. At 5:28p.m. PT, at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket achieved liftoff. It was carrying Iridium-4, a package of 10 Iridum communications satellites designed to be part of a 81-satellite constellation that'll hover in low earth orbit to deliver data and voice communications, including next-gen air traffic control.
That's awesome. And so was the way it light up Southern California today. Here are some more images and video, including a fantastic shot by Mike Paule that shows the whole progression.
As of 6:24p.m. PT, the mission is still underway. You can watch (and rewind) SpaceX's livestream right here.
Update, 6:36p.m. PT: It's come to our attention that SpaceX founder, CEO and hat salesman Elon Musk tweeted "It was definitely aliens" shortly after the launch. He's probably joking.