These Mesmerizing Photos of SpaceX's Night Rocket Launch and Landing Are Incredible

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti captured this shot of the Falcon 9 plume over the lights of LA on Oct. 7, 2018.



All rocket launches are spectacular, but SpaceX took things to another level over the weekend.

On Sunday night (Oct. 7), a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched the SAOCOM 1A Earth-observation satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California's Central Coast. And the two-stage booster's first stage landed back at Vandenberg less than 8 minutes after liftoff, pulling off SpaceX's first-ever terra-firma touchdown on California soil.

As it rose into the sky, the Falcon 9 spawned a gigantic, gorgeous, glowing cloud that wowed folks throughout the Golden State. The twilight plume had an otherworldly feel, so some observers made a point of stressing the cloud's Earthly origin.

The plume generated by the Falcon 9 launch from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base on Oct. 7, 2018, looked like something NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope might spy in the vast distances between the stars. Photo by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.



Skywatcher Doug Macmillan captured this shot of the plume created by the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched Argentina’s SAOCOM-1A radar-imaging satellite from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Station on Oct. 7, 2018. Macmillan was in Del Cerro Park in the Palos Verdes Peninsula, which is near Los Angeles.


The pulses fired by the Falcon 9 first stage’s small reaction-control thrusters as the booster headed back to Earth carved a Wi-Fi symbol into the sky, as captured in this shot by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.


Astrophotographer Sean Parker viewed the launch from Joshua Tree National Park in southeastern California and was suitably excited by the sky show.


This photo captures all of the SpaceX action on Oct. 7, 2018: A Falcon 9 rocket launching the SAOCOM-1A satellite from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Station; the plume created by the liftoff; and the Falcon 9’s first stage coming back to land at Vandenberg (short orange arc at right).


A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches Argentina’s SAOCOM-1A radar-imaging satellite from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Station on Oct. 7, 2018. The rocket’s first stage came back to Earth for a landing at Vandenberg less than 8 minutes after liftoff.


The first stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket made history with this landing at Landing Zone 4 at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Station on Oct. 7, 2018. The touchdown marked SpaceX's first-ever West Coast landing of a Falcon 9 rocket.



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