Yesterday evening, March 26th, sky watchers in southern California, Arizona and Nevada were surprised when they saw swirls of colorful gas looping through the sunset sky. This wasn’t a rocket launch at Vandenberg AFB. Nope, this very colorful and iridescent cloud was produced by the test launch of a Trident II (D5) missile from a submarine off the coast of San Diego, which was scheduled for March 26-27.

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The sky colorful and became iridescent over Southern California and Nevada on March 26, 2018. Why? Photo by Matt Bologna via Twitter
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Daniel Wood saw the same strange display in the sky over California from 38,000 feet in an airplane. via Space Weather
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This colorful cloud, the kind we usually see after a rocket launch, was visible near Joshua Tree National Park over Pioneertown CA. Photo by Cathleen Armstrong.
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No, these glowing clouds over Nevada and Southern California weren’t the result from a rocket launch at Vandenberg AFB. via Twitter
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The strange colorful lights were created by a military exercise on March 26, 2018. via Twitter
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The strange sky phenomenon resulted after the test launch of a Trident II (D5) missile from a submarine off the coast of San Diego, which was scheduled for March 26-27. via Twitter
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Water droplets and bits of unburnt fuel from the missile’s exhaust froze in the cold upper atmosphere and with the sunlight hitting the cristals, iridescence occurs. By Doug Backlung

What caused the pearly colors? Water droplets and bits of unburnt fuel from the missile’s exhaust froze in the cold upper atmosphere. When high-altitude sunlight hit the icy crystals, they glowed pastel yellow, red and blue – a phenomenon known as iridescence.

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