Astronaut David Saint-Jacques captured from ISS Soyuz launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome. Rocket launch contrail is left at the high altitude of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Credit: David Saint-Jacques, CSA, NASA

When rockets launch, they leave behind a trail of hot exhaust, also called a plume. If atmospheric conditions are right, these billowing plumes can make water condense out of the air, which then freezes into tiny ice crystals. And if the timing is right, these crystals can reflect the sun’s light from far over the horizon like a mirror. The phenomenon is known to scientists as noctilucent or “night-shining” clouds, which form naturally and most frequently over the Arctic and Antarctic.

The launch of Falcon 9 on June 29, 2018 on the ground is as follows.

Credit: Joey Roulette/Reuters

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