Malcolm Denmark/Florida Today/USA Today Network via Reuters
Jellyfish are a common sight along the Florida coast, but people watching the latest rocket launch from the Kennedy Space Center were treated to a unique sight.
SpaceX’s launch on Friday morning spawned a visual phenomenon known as a “space jellyfish,” rewarding people who got up early to watch the Falcon 9 rocket launch with a stunning sight: an ethereal cloud of illuminated gases, highlighted against the pre-dawn darkness.
The space jellyfish phenomenon occurs when a rocket takes off in the hours around dawn or dusk. A viewer may be standing in total darkness, but as the craft reaches great heights, the sun’s rays illuminate the plume of gases in its wake. The effect resembles the bell and tentacles of a medusa jellyfish.
Friday’s effect varied depending on where people were standing when they saw the rocket. As images posted online show, some observers saw a silvery horizontal streak, while others saw what looked like a billowing luminous cloud.
While the space jellyfish effect only evokes the animal, real jellyfish have also visited space. In 1991, NASA sent thousands of tiny jellyfish into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia to study how they react to microgravity.