If you happened to be looking up at the evening sky just after the sun went down on Wednesday, you may have spotted a strange-looking pink cloud hovering over the Jersey Shore.
Don’t worry. It wasn’t a UFO, and it wasn’t anything harmful, according to officials at NASA, the government space agency that triggered the eerie — but scenic — cloud.
Turns out the mysterious blob in the sky was triggered by a NASA rocket that was launched Wednesday evening from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia as part of a Department of Defense mission.
“The launch was to study ionization in space just beyond the reaches of Earth’s atmosphere,” NASA said in a press release issued after the launch. “After flying to an altitude of several hundred miles and about 500 miles off-shore, the rocket’s payload released a small quantity of vapor into the near-vacuum of space.”
The gas vapors — enough to fill about two standard propane tanks used for barbecue grills — created a condensation trail in the evening sky. And because the vapors were released around sunset, “the sun illuminated the vapor, causing that pink glow effect,” according to a report by the Wildwood Video Archive, a blog dedicated to news and images of the Wildwoods.
When wind began to blow the vapors, the long trail started to resemble a cloud, the report said, noting that the pink cloud lingered for about 45 minutes in the sky over the Jersey Shore and other parts of the eastern United States.
NASA said “there is no danger to public health or the Earth’s environment from the vapor release.”
The eerie, but scenic, cloud captured the attention of photographers and astronomy enthusiasts on social media. And some people who witnessed the strange phenomenon wondered whether aliens from space were paying a visit to our planet.
Among the startled skywatchers was Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who said on Twitter he was “almost 100%” sure he “saw a UFO drop straight out of the sky” on his way home from dinner Wednesday evening.
Almost 100%, Em and I just saw a UFO drop straight out of the sky on our way home from dinner… we stopped and looked at each other and asked if either of us saw it… Very bright ball of light going straight down out of the sky towards Lake Travis. Anybody else witness this?
— Baker Mayfield (@bakermayfield)
The News & Observer in North Carolina said colorful cloud sightings — some referring to a pink cloud and others indicating a red cloud — were reported as far north as Pennsylvania and as far south as Puerto Rico.
A Twitter user named Chris snapped some photos of the colorful cloud and posted this observation: “I was very shocked to walk out of my front door to see a red cloud like that, after the sun had already set. It was beautiful to witness.”
More images of the pink cloud
Pink ball in the sky over Margate pic.twitter.com/PzHFi7QGV6
— Pamela Nehf LLC (@pamelanehfllc)
I am very emotional right now. You spend half your life obsessing over something and you start to get pretty good at it….
Cloudless skies tonight other than this weird anomaly. Supposedly atmospheric testing. Strangely beautiful! pic.twitter.com/LXPlVDmC4P
— Beth Midgett (@mbethone)
I was very shocked to walk out of my front door to see a red cloud like that, after the sun had already set. It was beautiful to witness. pic.twitter.com/Q8wRtK9YY0
— 🪦 Chris 🪦 (@AncientEgypt13)
I was driving home this evening and had to take a picture of this random pink cloud in the sky.
This picture doesn’t do it any justice. It was super vibrant and looked completely unreal. 💗☁️ pic.twitter.com/IyfzLk5apU
— 🎐 𝔍𝔅 🎐 (@DripsOfEden)
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Len Melisurgo may be reached at LMelisurgo@njadvancemedia.com.
This content was originally published here.