Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Californians mistake lights in sky from SpaceX rocket launch for UFOs or nuclear attack from North Korea

Motorists stopped their cars on motorways to get out and take pictures

Jeff Farrell
Saturday 23 December 2017 13:08 GMT
Elon Musk's SpaceX rocket launch lights up California sky

SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s latest rocket launch left many onlookers fearing it was a UFO or a nuclear bomb attack by North Korea.

The spacecraft streaked through the night sky after its launch in California, illuminated by a giant oval-shaped glow against the backdrop of a setting sun as it hurtled into the stratosphere.

Onlookers across the US state stopped their cars on motorways and ran out of their homes to gaze upwards and take pictures.

Many took to social media and told how they believed the orb of light – shaped like a Zeppelin air balloon – was an alien craft or a bomb attack by Kim Jong-un.

Celebrities were not immune to the excitement.

Rapper posted: “What is that in the Los Angeles sky?”, while singer Billy Ray Cyrus wrote: “#WhatToHeck #UFO #Santa ???”

Emergency services had to field calls from worried bystanders, forcing one fire department to notify the public that the “mysterious light in the sky” was actually Mr Musk’s rocket launch.

The tech guru himself even made fun of the confusion, posting a video of the launch on Twitter captioned “Nuclear alien UFO from North Korea”.

The SpaceX rocket was launched from the coastal Vandenberg Air Force Base, in Santa Barbara County, California.

The Falcon 9 booster was carrying a batch of 10 satellites that were successfully propelled into orbit an hour later.

Sanee Akbar told The Independent how he was visiting friends with his children in San Diego, California, when he went outside to take a video of the rocket.

He said: “We ran out of the house when we saw the streak in the sky. We called our kids out to see.

“We were in awe and thought it’s a UFO. Of course we know about Elon Musk and his adventures, I would say, but didn’t know it was a rocket.”

In another video, published on Twitter by Ally Thornton, a girl is heard apparently calling the emergency services after seeing the rocket.

She appeared to make a phone call and said: “Hi, do you see what’s happening outside in the sky? I seriously think it’s a nuclear bomb.”

Mr Musk, a South African multibillionaire, founded the tech company in 2002 with “the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets”.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in