ICYMI: Exhaust from Florida rocket launch visible over the Outer Banks, much of East Coast

Shelli Gates was out walking her dog just after 6 a.m. in Nags Head when she spotted the plume from a SpaceX launch on March 14, 2021. [courtesy Shelli Gates]

Early risers Sunday morning (thanks in part to the time change) had a wild sight overhead along the Outer Banks and even as far inland as the Triad.

But what some of you saw has an easy explanation.

SpaceX launched another batch of 60 Starlink satellites on the Starlink v.0 L21 mission from historic Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center Sunday at 6:01 a.m., according to NASASpaceFlight.com.

The online outlet reports it is the 21st operational and the 22nd overall Starlink mission, it also marked the first time a Falcon 9 first stage flew nine times, the eighth Falcon 9 flight of the year, and the third in March as SpaceX pursues their rapid launch cadence goals for 2021.

[courtesy Shelli Gates]
[courtesy Shelli Gates]
[courtesy Shelli Gates]

A combination of “plume expansion” from the rocket and the angle of the sun helped create the visual effect that has been reported up and down the East Coast this morning.

It has become a common occurrence on the Outer Banks to see Falcon 9’s and other rockets launched from the Wallops Space Flight Facility on the Virginia Eastern Shore.

Although we can usually just see the flame from the first or second stage as a small, rapidly moving light in the northeastern sky.

And then there’s the occasional sounding rocket from Wallops that have produced cotton-candy style clouds testing the outer atmosphere.

This morning’s launch was one of the few times since the Space Shuttle program was still operating that the Outer Banks could spot a launch taking place from Florida’s Space Coast.

And while seeing the rockets in flight from Kennedy Space Center has become a much rarer happening, we can occasionally have debris from those launches wash up on our shores.

In both the fall of 2017 and 2018, fairings from a SpaceX launches out of KSC washed up on Hatteras Island.

This story originally appeared on OBXToday.com. Read More local stories here.