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"Two objects streaking through the cloud suggested the possibility of a rocket burn or fuel dump"--and that is the correct explanation. This cloud mimicking Comet 17P/Holmes is fuel dumped from the upper stage of an Atlas rocket that launched a classified satellite into orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office earlier this evening. It was a splendid display, now faded away.
Atlas 5 Rocket Launches Classified U.S. Satellite
2355 GMT (6:55 p.m. EST)
The spent Centaur upper stage for today's launch is creating a stunning view over Cape Canaveral right now. After successfully hauling its clandestine payload into orbit, the upper stage is dumping residual propellant overboard that creates a bright fan-shaped cloud in the night sky as the rocket flies overhead. This is a special treat adding to the beautiful liftoff witnessed nearly two hours ago.