On Friday, December 22nd, 2017, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenburg Air Force base, near Los Angeles, at around about 5:30 PST (around sunset). This was nothing unusual, but what was usual was the atmospheric conditions, and the fact that the rocket’s contrail caught the sunlight at a high altitude in the ionosphere, resulting in this spectacular display!
Seen by tens of thousands of people, it is not surprising that many imagined everything from a UFO flyby, to an alien invasion, to the beginning of World War III. LA’s 911 system was flooded with calls, media announcements went out to allay concerns, and LA’s mayor even had to make a statement. There was also at least one traffic accident involving 3 cars caused by distracted drivers witnessing the event on the LA freeway.