Space Jellyfish

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A space jellyfish (or jellyfish UFO; also rocket jellyfish) is a rocket launch-related phenomenon caused by sunlight reflecting off the high altitude rocket plume gases emitted by a launching rocket during morning or evening twilight. The observer is in darkness, while the exhaust plumes at high altitudes are still in direct sunlight. This luminous apparition is reminiscent of a jellyfish.[1][2][3] Sightings of the phenomenon have led to panic, fear of nuclear missile strike, and reports of unidentified flying objects.[4][5][6][7][8][9]

List of rocket launches causing space jellyfish

Rocket launch Payload Date Location Summary Notes References
SpaceX Falcon 9 flight 62 SAOCOM 1A 8 October 2018 California A West Coast launch off California, in the post-dusk; causing UFO reports [10][11][12]
SpaceX Falcon 9 flight 57 SpaceX CRS-15 29 June 2018 Florida An East Coast launch off Florida, in the pre-dawn [1]
Soyuz-2.1.b launch Glonass-M satellite 17 June 2018 European Russia A launch from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome heading over the cities of Nizhny Novgorod and Kazan, Russia. [13][8][9]
SpaceX Falcon 9 flight 46 SpaceX Iridium 4[NB 1] 22 December 2017 California A West Coast launch off California, in the post-dusk [14]
Atlas V 551 AV-056 flight MUOS-4[NB 2] 2 September 2015 Florida A Cape Canaveral launch in the pre-dawn. [15][16]
Meteor-M2 weather satellite 8 July 2014 European Russia A launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan [17]
RS-12M Topol-M nuclear missile test launch N/A 10 October 2013 Eurasia Launched from Kapustin Yar, Russia; to crash into Shary Shagan, Kazakhstan. [18]
Kosmos 1188 14 June 1980 European Russia A launch from Plesetsk Cosmodrome resulted in a giant U-shaped jellyfish appearing over Moscow and Kalinin, Russia. [19]
Kosmos 955 20 September 1977 Northern Europe A launch from Plesetsk Cosmodrome resulted in a jellyfish vapour trail seen over northern Europe, causing the UFO incident known as the "Petrozavodsk phenomenon". [20]

See also


  1. Iridium-NEXT launch SpaceX-4
  2. U.S. Navy Mobile User Objective System satellite


  1. 1 2 Hanneke Weitering (29 June 2018). "See the 'Space Jellyfish' and Other Jaw-Dropping Views from SpaceX's Dragon Launch".
  3. Marta Subat (4 July 2018). "Science: See the 'Space Jellyfish' and Other Jaw-Dropping Views from SpaceX's Dragon Launch". Infosurhoy.
  4. Cleve R. Wootson Jr. (23 December 2017). "A 'UFO sighting' briefly freaked out the West Coast. There was an earthly explanation". Washington Post.
  5. LISA MARIE SEGARRA (23 December 2017). "People in L.A. Definitely Thought This SpaceX Rocket Launch Was Aliens". Time Magazine.
  6. Mike Wright (23 December 2017). "'Did we just see a UFO?' SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch causes consternation as it lights up the Californian skies". The Telegraph (UK).
  7. "A giant, glowing jellyfish or an alien invasion? No, this is a reused SpaceX rocket". Hindustan Times. Associated Press. 23 December 2017.
  8. 1 2 Chris Baynes (18 June 2018). "'Alien invasion' over World Cup stadium was actually Russian rocket launch". The Independent (UK).
  9. 1 2 "Russian Rocket Launch Sparks UFO Conspiracy". The Moscow Times. 18 June 2018.
  10. Alexandra Lozovschi (10 October 2018). "Stunning Photos From The Latest SpaceX Rocket Launch Reveal A Dazzling Plume In The California Sky". The Inquisitor.
  11. William Graham (7 October 2018). "SpaceX Falcon 9 launches with SAOCOM 1A and nails first West Coast landing". NASA Spaceflight .com.
  12. Ian Atkinson (2 October 2018). "SpaceX conducts static fire test ahead of SAOCOM-1A mission, first west coast RTLS". NASA Spaceflight .com.
  13. Charlotte Davis (22 June 2018). "Residents startled as BIZZARE [sic] 'UFO' object lights up night sky near Russia World Cup city". The Express (UK).
  14. Loren Grush (23 December 2018). "All the best reactions to SpaceX's Friday night rocket launch in California". The Verge.
  15. Jonathan O`Callaghan (4 September 2015). "No, That Incredible Atlas V Launch Was Not A UFO". IFL Science.
  16. Maxime Lambert (21 July 2016). "La vidéo d'un étrange halo bleu relance le débat sur Internet" (in French). Maxi Sciences.
  17. Lauren Hitchings (10 July 2014). "Jellyfish in the sky was a high-flying rocket plume". New Scientist. Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  18. Alan Boyle (14 October 2013). "UFO? Astro ghost? Find out what that spooky space cloud really was". NBC News.
  19. Chris A. Rutkowski (2008). A World of UFOs. Dundurn. p. 99. ISBN 1-77070-343-8.
  20. James Oberg (31 December 1981). "Close encounters of a fabricated kind". New Scientist. Vol. 92 no. 1285. pp. 896–898.

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