We’ve been getting a lot of emails about this but no, that awesome looking object pictured above taking off from Cape Canaveral in Florida this week is not a UFO. It is in fact, very much identified - because we watched it launch!
The incredible sight was actually a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, launching the U.S. Navy’s MUOS-4 spacecraft. The rocket lifted off at 6:18 a.m. EDT (11 a.m. BST) on Wednesday September 2, just as the Sun was rising, and the mix of unique conditions meant that it produced a spectacular vista for observers on the ground.
As the rocket climbed into the atmosphere, the combination of the pre-dawn light and the atmospheric conditions meant that the plume of the rocket formed an elongated shape as it climbed into space. In some videos, like the one below, as the rockets travels upwards at an angle it almost looks like the rocket is moving horizontal across the sky – although this is just an illusion, and it is actually travelling into the distance.
Science to the rescue. Aniello Fabio Landi/YouTube.
MUOS-4 is the fourth satellite in the U.S. Navy’s MUOS (Mobile User Objective System) network of communications satellites. It is intended to significantly improve ground communications for U.S. forces. The spacecraft will be placed in a geosynchronous orbit 35,900 kilometers (22,300 miles) above Earth, where it will remain in the same position above the ground. MUOS-1 and 2 launched in 2012 and 2013 respectively, while the third launched in January this year.
So, remove those tin foil hats. We’re afraid this was nothing more than a giant rocket launching into space at thousands of miles per hour. Oh wait, that’s pretty awesome.
You can watch a video of highlights from the launch below.