Pink Cloud Had Arizona and New Mexico Residents Freaking Out (+Photos)

February 25, 2015 Updated: February 25, 2015

A pink cloud appeared in the night and early morning sky in parts of Arizona and as far as New Mexico had locals worried.

Photos were uploaded of the cloud on Twitter, but as it has been reported, people shouldn’t be afraid. According to ABC-15 in Phoenix, the cloud was likely caused by a nearby NASA rocket launch. 

The rocket launch entailed sending a NASA instrument into space right outside the Earth’s atmosphere. NASA said the launch released a small amount of vapor about 100 miles above the surface of the Earth, ABC reported.

KGUN-9 reported that the rocket launch was carried out in New Mexico–not in Arizona. Cammy Montoya, the PIO for White Sands Missile Range, said that at 5:30 a.m., a Terrier Black Brant research rocket launch was carried out

“We were anticipating it,” Montoya told the broadcaster. “The research rocket when it’s launched releases a small quantity of vapor and when the sun starts to come up it reflects on crystallization in vapor reflects that colorful cloud. We don’t really have a name for it.”

TucsonNewsNow has more:

This may be considered a ‘noctilucent’ cloud. Although this one would be classified as artificial because it was created by a rocket launch, these types of clouds also appear in nature, often times closer to the poles. The clouds appear in the sky when ice crystals about 50 miles or higher in the atmosphere reflect the rays of the sun while the sun is still below the horizon for the location from which the cloud is seen.

NASA has, in the past, created artificial noctilucent clouds from a rocket launch to study how they form and move through the highest layers of Earth’s atmosphere. In this case, the creation of the possible noctilucent cloud was simply a by-product of the launch. Vapor from the rocket launch turned into ice crystals high in the atmosphere. Those ice crystals then reflected sunlight to create that bright pink color.

Here’s a NASA explanation as to how the cloud may have been made: