The anomalous sights and sounds in Americas skies continue this week as a strange light appeared in the air over California, prompting the Air Force to cancel a rocket launch and thoroughly freaking out Californians. According to local news reports, the light appeared at around 5:30 p.m. local time and persisted for several seconds. Dozens of motorists and residents caught the strange streak on camera, blowing up social media with posts of the curious apparition.
NORAD immediately announced they were investigating the event, while the National Weather Service released a statement proposing that the light was a unique atmospheric phenomenon known as a noctilucent cloud. These cloudlike formations are caused by ice crystals and dust particles left behind by rocket launches, aircraft activity, or meteor explosions in the upper atmosphere. At dusk, the low angle of the sun can illuminate these streaks and create the breathtaking phenomena similar to what was seen above California.
While the streak was certainly similar in appearance to a meteor impact or space debris burning up in the atmosphere, the coincidental timing with a nearby rocket launch is somewhat odd. The U.S. Air Force and United Launch Alliance were set to launch a Delta IV rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base at the exact same time the lights appeared over California. That rocket was supposed to carry an undisclosed spy satellite into orbit – a spy satellite that has been delayed on three previous launch attempts.