‘Is that a comet?’ Shimmering cloud over Bermuda had Earthly origins

Residents of Bermuda were perplexed on Thursday night as a massive cloud illuminated the dark night sky and appeared to glow as it grew larger than the moon.

“What is that?” Christian Oatley said while watching the glistening cloud over Bermuda on Thursday while walking his dog. “Is that a comet?”

Although the mysterious object resembled a comet with a massive tail radiating from the point, it was not a space rock. However, there was a faint comet in the sky on Thursday night that could be viewed by folks with a clear sky and a telescope.

A massive cloud created by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket illuminated the sky over Bermuda on July 14, 2022. Photo courtesy of Christian Oatley via Storyful

The origins of the cloud could be traced back to a SpaceX rocket that blasted off from Florida minutes earlier.

The uncrewed SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket fired up its engines at 8:44 p.m. EDT on July 14 to start its long journey to the International Space Station. The rocket is carrying cargo for a routine resupply mission, including food and scientific experiments.

The rocket launch was not only seen in Bermuda. A few lucky window seat passengers on an airplane flying into Orlando, Fla., on Thursday evening were able to see the launch as the rocket took to the sky.

Breathtaking clouds like the one witnessed on Wednesday night are fairly common with rocket launches, but they cannot be seen with every launch.

In order for people to be able to witness the massive jellyfish-shaped cloud, SpaceX needs to conduct its launches shortly before sunrise or shortly after sunset. At this point in the day, it is still dark at the ground, but as the rocket climbs high in the sky, it eventually climbs out of Earth’s shadow and is illuminated by the sun. The sunlight then shines on the massive plume of rocket exhaust, creating the spectacle.

A similar cloud was captured on camera as recently as May following a pre-dawn SpaceX launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

More notably, a SpaceX launch from Southern California on Dec. 22, 2017, created a massive whale-shaped cloud that was seen by millions of people in and around Los Angeles. Initial sightings of the cloud fueled rumors of UFOs on social media.

Thursday night’s launch was the 30th SpaceX launch so far in 2022 with many more to go.

The company plans on launching another mission from Vandenberg Space Force Base in Southern California next week, followed by another Florida launch before the end of July, according to SpaceflightNow.