PHOTOS: What was that strange thing in Florida’s sky this morning?

An ethereal bloom of white painted a cobalt sky early Friday morning in South Florida, leaving some early risers curious about the origin of the unusual pre-dawn sight.

The wispy tendril that was shaped like a popsicle, or a balloon, or a heart, depending on location, was the result of a 5:42 a.m. SpaceX rocket launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

With 48 minutes before sunrise, the surface of the Earth was still dark, but the rocket’s exhaust plume became illuminated as the day’s first sunbeams met it on its journey into space.

“I thought maybe it was a cloud, but there weren’t any other clouds and it kept changing,” said Arthur Small, who emailed a photo to The Palm Beach Post asking about the unusual object. “The Northern Lights came to mind, but I know you don’t see them this far south.”

At least one person sent a photo of the plume to the National Weather Service in Miami with a query on what it was. Others posted pictures to social media, either exalting the early-morning beauty or questioning its appearance.

“It’s very similar to when you put a cold cup of water in a humid room and you get water on the outside, except up there, it’s ice crystals,” said Robert Garcia, a meteorologist with the NWS in Miami. “Since it was dark, and then you have something suddenly with light on it, it really stands out.”

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is carrying more than 5,900 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station, including materials for about 250 science and research investigations that will be conducted on the space station.

The rocket is expected to arrive Monday.

An early morning launch in 2015 by a United Launch Alliance rocket elicited similar responses as those Friday.

“Always a cool thing when you can combine weather, science, and rockets,” said Florida Climatologist David Zierden in 2015.

Atlas V rocket launch vapor trail on Oct. 2 as seen from West Palm Beach. Photo by Post Photo Editor Greg Lovett

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Strong thunderstorm moving toward Boca Raton

UPDATE 4:39 P.M.: A significant weather advisory has been issued for southeastern Palm Beach County as a strong thunderstorm moves into the region.

Small hail, lightning, funnel clouds, wind gusts to 55 mph and torrential rain are possible with this storm.

The advisory is in effect until 5:15 p.m.

UPDATE 1:18 P.M.: Thunderstorms are firing up along Palm Beach County’s southeast coast and southwest inland area.

The storms have triggered weather advisories from the National Weather Service, with forecasters warning of nickel size hail, funnel clouds and winds in excess of 45 mph.

The storms in are moving north at between 15 and 20 mph.

The advisory for the southwest storm is in effect until 1:45 p.m.

UPDATE 12:53 P.M.: The National Weather Service has issued a significant weather advisory for areas of southeast Palm Beach County as a strong line of thunderstorms moves into the region.

The storm is moving north at 15 mph.

Funnel clouds are possible with this storm, as well as torrential rain.

Areas affected include Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Wellington, Lake Worth, Highland Beach, Green acres, Lantana and Ocean Ridge.

The advisory is in effect until 1:15 p.m.

Previous story: 

Get some sunshine when you can this week, because the rain is expected to continue through at least Friday with the wettest periods during the afternoon hours.

The area of low pressure in the Gulf of Mexico continues to pull tropical moisture into the state. National Hurricane Center forecasters are giving the disturbance only a 10 percent chance of developing into a tropical or subtropical system over the next five days.

LIVE RADAR: Check The Palm Beach Post’s radar map.

Despite development, it will bring more wet weather to South Florida as it creeps north toward the Panhandle this week.

With the focus of the low further north and west over the course of the week, National Weather Service meteorologists expect showers and thunderstorms to be stirred up by daytime heating.

That means most of the bad weather, including some thunderstorms will be in the afternoon.

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“Also, the risk of intense convection will go down as well, although at least some concern for waterspouts will remain in the highly tropical air mass,” NWS forecasters wrote this morning.

Rainfall totals  through Monday for South Florida are between 3 to 7 inches, with the highest amounts alone the east coast. Training or stalled thunderstorms could lead to much higher amounts in localized areas.

Three tornadoes zipped through Florida during Monday’s storms, including an EF-0 that hit in western Palm Beach County. The other weak tornadoes were in Brevard and Martin counties.

The Palm Beach County tornado, judged to be an EF-0 with up to 80 mph winds, touched down at 5:34 a.m. near 71st Place North and Apache Blvd. It ripped a 1.5 mile-path northwest across Seminole Pratt Whitney Road before lifting four minutes later near Valencia Blvd. and Banyan Blvd.

See images of tornado damage in western Palm Beach County.

In the short rampage, the twister tossed trampolines, toppled a bunny cage and a chicken shed, shredded pool screens, knocked on doors loud enough to set off a burglar alarm, obliterated at least one shed and uprooted a tree in the paddock of an 18-year-old horse named Flash.

RELATED: Slimmer cone for 2018 hurricane season reflects forecasting improvements.

Mike Jordan, Flash’s keeper, said he was watching the news when the worst of the storm hit. He heard the tornado warning.

“About two minutes after that, there it was,” he said.

In Brevard County, a tornado that started as a waterspout in the Banana River whacked a mobile home park on Merritt Island on Monday. The weather service in Melbourne confirmed the damage was consistent with a low-end tornado.

In far western Martin County, weather service meteorologists confirmed an EF-0 tornado took part of a barn’s roof off and caused minor damage to a screened porch.

The soupy swirl of low pressure hugging Florida’s west coast was given a 30 percent chance of developing into a tropical or subtropical system over the next five days as it heads north into the Panhandle.

Another 5 inches is possible through Saturday morning.

“They’ll be some peaks of sun here and there,” said Chris Fisher, a meteorologist with the NWS in Miami. “It’s hard to pin down a rain estimate, but, areawide, it could be another 3-5 inches through the end of the week.”

In the 24-hour period ending at 6:45 a.m., the most rain fell north of Lake Okeechobee, where water managers were forced to close a lock to boat traffic it could keep it open for flood control.

South Florida Water Management District rainfall in the 24-hour period before 6:45 a.m.

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WATCH LIVE: SpaceX makes second attempt to launch Block 5

Falcon 9 Block 5 rolling onto launch pad as seen in Instagram post by Elon Musk.

UPDATE 4 p.m.: Watch live as Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket launches.

SpaceX will make a second attempt this afternoon to launch its Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket after the mission was aborted Thursday.

The launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center opens with a two-hour window at 4:14 p.m. The launch will be webcast by SpaceX here.

It is the first launch of the Falcon 9 Block 5, which is the final substantial upgrade to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 vehicle.

The rocket is carrying the Bangabandhu 1 satellite, which is Bangladesh’s first communications satellite.

SpaceX will attempt to land Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Of course I still love you” drone ship.

A two-hour backup launch window opens Saturday at 4:15 p.m.

 

DON’T MISS: SpaceX debuts new Block 5 rocket

Falcon 9 Block 5 rolling onto launch pad as seen in Instagram post by Elon Musk.

UPDATE 5:25 p.m.: Watch the launch of SpaceX’s newest rocket live:

UPDATE 3:25 p.m.:  SpaceX is now targeting a launch time of 5:47 p.m.

Previous story: The debut of SpaceX’s newest rocket is scheduled for Thursday with a launch from Kennedy Space Center.

The new-generation Falcon 9 Block is expected to launch from pad 39A with a launch window stretching from 4:12 p.m. to 6:22 p.m.

The launch can be viewed on the SpaceX website.

The rocket will be carrying a communications satellite for Bangadesh called the Bangabandhu Satellite-1. It is the first communications satellite for Bangladesh.

According to Florida Today: “The nearly 8,000-pound satellite will deliver communications services to Asia ranging from Turkmenistan to the Philippines with the Bangladesh Communications Satellite Company, located roughly in the middle, as its operator. Bangladesh will become the 58th country in history to operate a geostationary satellite after it reaches orbit.”

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Postponed SpaceX launch set for tonight

The SpaceX launch that was postponed Monday has been rescheduled for tonight with a 30-second launch window that opens at 6:51 p.m.

>>WATCH LIVE

A planet-hunting satellite will be aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, that will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The mission launch can be watched live via webcast on SpaceX’s website or on NASA TV. 

SpaceX will attempt to land the rocket on the “Of course I still love you” droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

The second drone ship is named “Just read the instructions.” The names were chosen by SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk to honor the sci-fi author Iain M. Banks. 

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, is on a two-year mission. TESS will look for planets smaller than Earth all the way to gas giants. It will do this by monitoring more than 200,000 bright host stars.

Worlds orbiting other stars are called exoplanets.

Thousands of exoplanets have already been discovered. In 2016, NASA developed a unique way to introduce some of them to the public with an whimsical vacation-planning guide.

An artist’s rendition of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS.

UPDATE: Planet-hunting satellite launch delayed

UPDATE 4:25 p.m.: Space X has canceled its launch today, hoping to try for a Wednesday launch window.

Previous story: A planet-hunting satellite is scheduled to launch tonight from Cape Canaveral aboard a Space X Falcon 9 rocket.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, is scheduled for liftoff at 6:32 p.m. with a 30-second launch window. A backup launch window opens Tuesday at 6:13 p.m.

On its two-year mission, TESS will look for planets smaller than Earth all the way to gas giants. It will do this by monitoring more than 200,000 bright host stars.

Regular dips in the brightness of stars could indicate orbiting planets.

The launch will be webcast on the SpaceX website and NASA TV.

Space X will attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on the “Of course I still love you” drone ship offshore.

The second drone ship is named “Just read the instructions.” The names were chosen by SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk to honor the sci-fi author Iain M. Banks. 

Space X drone ship “Just read the instructions.”

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict an 80 percent chance of favorable weather for liftoff.

Today, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is hosting several events to be broadcast live on NASA TV. View the TESS Briefings and Events page for the full list of event participants.

Worlds orbiting other stars are called exoplanets.

Thousands of exoplanets have already been discovered. In 2016, NASA developed a unique way to introduce some of them to the public with an whimsical vacation-planning guide.

Described as being similar to Luke Skywalker’s Tatooine, this planet orbits a pair of stars.
This so-called “rogue planet” doesn’t orbit a parent sun. Artists envisioned a place “Where the nightlife never ends.”

The wonders of space can be difficult for people to grasp because it sometimes comes across as just data, said Joby Harris, a visual strategist with NASA during a 2016 interview.

“Our universe has gotten so much bigger but people aren’t talking about it,” Harris said. “The power of imagery with science really makes the connection with people.”

An artist’s rendition of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS.

DON’T MISS: Planet-hunting mission one of two Cape launches

Cape Canaveral will host two launches in the coming days with the powerful Atlas V rocket scheduled for a Saturday liftoff and a Space X Falcon 9 launching Monday.

The United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket will carry a communications satellite and an aircraft that will be used for research by the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Saturday’s launch is expected to liftoff at 7:13 p.m. from Launch Complex 41. A live webcast of the event will begin at 6:53 p.m on the ULA website.

On Monday, a Space X Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch at 6:32 p.m. with NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, a spacecraft that will monitor more than 200,000 stars looking for small planets.

SpaceX and NASA-TV will host webcasts of the event.

With showers possible Saturday and weather turning ugly Sunday, monitor updates on the launches here and here. 

An artist’s rendition of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS.

WATCH LIVE: SpaceX launches today with equipment to study sprites, blue jets and elves

An innovative climate observatory that will peer into the ethereal realm above Earth’s bristling thunderstorms launches today from Cape Canaveral aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

The Atmospheric Space Interactions Monitor, or ASIM, has been in the works since 2010 and will perch on the International Space Station to study those elusive “sprites”, “blue jets” and “elves” – all electrical light shows that occur in the stratosphere, mesosphere and ionosphere.

RELATED: Satellite to revolutionize weather forecasts.

Earth’s atmospheric layers. NASA

The launch is scheduled for 4:30 today, with the 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron giving the launch an 80 percent chance of favorable conditions. Concerns that could delay the launch are obstructions by cumulus clouds and a small chance of rain.

The launch can be watched live on NASA-TV, with a broadcast that begins at 4 p.m.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

SpaceX will have its own live webcast here. 

ASIM is part of a larger mission to resupply the space station,  and deliver investigations that include a study to better understand how the lack of gravity affects a metal manufacturing.

Also, continuing research on growing food in space will be aboard the Dragon CRS-14. The Veggie Passive Orbital Nutrient Delivery System tests a new way to give plants the boosts they need to thrive in space.

“We have 280 different experiments on board and this will help the progress of  more than 50 of them,” said Pete Hasbrook, associate program scientist for the International Space Station program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

RELATED: New weather satellite to improve severe and seven-day forecasts.

This is the 14th SpaceX commercial resupply mission to the ISS for NASA. The Dragon will carry 5,800 pounds of cargo.

The sprites, blue jets and elves that will be studied are more technically known as transient luminous events.

“The things we are looking for are newly discovered, perhaps we’ve known about them for 15 to 20 years,” said Torsten Neubert, principal investigator for ASIM. “They have been observed for a while from mountaintops and a few satellites, so we know about the physics, but we don’t know how they are generated.”

It’s believed the upward shots of light will happen more slowly than the lightning that bangs to Earth.

“On Earth, the lighting is happening so fast it’s gone before you are able to measure it, so what’s happening inside lightning, we don’t really know,” Neubert said.

Terrestrial gamma ray flashes will also be studied by ASIM. The flashes are high-energy discharges in the Earth’s atmosphere, but the origin of events is unclear.

Sprite captured by astronauts aboard the International Space Station on Aug. 10, 2015.

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Tickets for Feb. 6 SpaceX launch of “world’s most powerful rocket” already selling out

SpaceX is preparing to launch its Falcon Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral and tickets to see the much-anticipated takeoff are on sale at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex or its website.

The Falcon Heavy is touted as the first rocket capable of taking astronauts to Mars with three modified Falcon 9 engines working together to make the “world’s most powerful rocket.”

SpaceX has confirmed a launch date of Feb. 6 for Falcon Heavy. It completed the first static-fire launch pad test Wednesday.

Ticket packages to watch the launch run from the $195 per person for the “Feel the Heat” package to the more humble “Close” package at $35.

Rebecca Shireman, a spokeswoman working with the center on the ticket sales, said the “Feel the Heat” package has sold out.

Too bad. If you have the money, here’s what it includes:

  • Apollo/Saturn V Center (ASVC) Launch Viewing, the closest you can get to the launch pad
  • 2-Day admission to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
  • Exclusive Shuttle Landing Facility Experience including seeing the final wheel stop for STS-135, space shuttle Atlantis
  • Catered meal
  • (2) Drink tickets
  • Champagne toast with commemorative glass
  • SpaceX hat
  • Digital photo at ASVC
  • Vehicle placard, required for visitor complex parking

The center is calling the launch a “once-in-a-lifetime event” with the rocket taking off from historic launch pad 39A where Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong set course for the moon on Apollo 11 in 1969.

Other ticket packages are as follows:

“Closest” at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (SOLD OUT)
Location: Space Shuttle Atlantis North lawn viewing
Cost: $115 per person
• Two– day admission to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
• Launch viewing from the Space Shuttle Atlantis North Lawn Viewing Location
• Buffet meal
• Keepsakes such as SpaceX sticker and a commemorative item
• Visitor complex parking*
• Jumbotron access and live, expert commentary of launch and landing
• Live programing
• Launch party featuring a live DJ, beach balls, noise makers, giveaways and more
• Digital photo on the day of the launch with special background options

Package: “Closer”
Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
Cost: $75 per person
• Two-day admission to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
• A commemorative keepsake
• Visitor complex parking*
• Full access to the activities, exhibits, shows and displays at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex pre- and post-launch
• Jumbotron access and live, expert commentary of launch and landing
• Digital photo on the day of the launch with special background options

*A limited number of preferred parking passes are available for the above packages at an additional cost of $15

Package: “Close”
Location: ATX Center on Vectorspace Blvd.
Cost: $35
• Viewing access
• Vectorspace parking
• Jumbotron access and live, expert commentary of launch and landing
• Food, beverage and retail items will be available for purchase

Falcon Heavy

Don’t miss SpaceX rocket launch this weekend

A SpaceX rocket launch is scheduled for Sunday night from Kennedy Space Center and might be visible in South Florida if Mother Nature cooperates.

The launch window for the Falcon 9 rocket opens at 8 p.m.

It carries the Zuma spacecraft, which has had repeated launch delays since November.

The Falcon 9 rocket’s reusable first stage will attempt a controlled landing at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The Zuma mission is a mystery, but it has been identified as a government payload managed by Northrop Grumman, according to Florida Today. 

Palm Beach County skies are forecast to be mostly cloudy with a temperature of 64 degrees at about 8 p.m.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Dragon lift off from Launch Pad 39A on Feb. 19, 2017