On February 11th 2010,a beautiful day with crisp clear blue skies the Solar Dynamics Observatory lifted off from Cape Canaveral on a five-year mission to study the sun aboard NASA's Atlas five.
As the launch proceeded and the countdown timer began a sundog formed over the launchpad. A rare and spectacular sight that caused the crowd below to exclaim with wonder.
The rocket lifted off and When it penetrated the cirrus, shock waves rippled through the cloud destroying the alignment of the ice crystals extinguishing the sundog.
The sundog’s destruction was understood. The events that followed were not.
A luminous column of white light appeared next to the Atlas five and followed the rocket up into the sky as the sky itself seemed to ripple like a pond that's had a pebble thrown into it. Nothing like it has ever been seen before or since.
Sundogs are formed by the refracting action of plate shaped ice crystals.
The rippling that was seen was the supersonic boom becoming visible when the rocket penetrated the cirrus disrupting the ice crystals.
The luminous column of white light that followed the rocket was a phenomena that had never been seen before and was not understood.
After the event scientists set about trying to understand it and figure out the cause of the white light.
They now believe that it's a new form of ice halo that can teach them new things about how shock waves interact with clouds.
This rare confluence of events, two unusual rare phenomena appearing at the same time and a never before seen phenomena also making an appearance is astonishing. What are the odds? They say coincidence is a scientific anomaly.
One must wonder if there was more to the event than is understood or known.
One of NASA's most spectacular and incredible launches by far, it was also the strangest.