Predawn launch leaves sky aglow

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An Atlas V rocket launch from Cape Canaveral was the talk of the Bay Area early Wednesday -- not because of the launch, but the scene it left behind in the sky.

The rocket, carrying a U.S. Navy communications satellite, blasted off at 6:19 a.m. Moments later, the exhaust plume could be seen for hundreds of miles.

Even though the launch took place in darkness, the rising rocket quickly climbed into the sunlight.  The Atlas V's expanding exhaust plume was illuminated by the sun at a high altitude, putting on a dramatic light show that lingered in the otherwise dark sky for several minutes.

The exhaust plume was normal and the launch was considered a success, though details were scarce because of the satellite's classified nature.  

Such displays tend to happen only with predawn and post-sunset launches, when the launch site is dark but the rocket climbs into the sunlight.  

Viewers from all over Florida caught a glimpse of the rare sight.  Some of their photos are attached to this story.