Here’s a Time-Lapse of SpaceX’s ‘UFO’ Rocket Launch

SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket from Southern California last Friday, lighting up the sky and freaking out people who thought they were seeing a UFO. Photographer Jesse Watson of Yuma, Arizona, managed to capture this beautiful 40-second time-lapse of what the spectacle looked like.

Watson had been following SpaceX launches on the Internet for some time. Prior to this latest launch, he found out that it would be held at Vandenberg Air Force Base in SoCal, about 400 miles away but “perfectly viewable” from his location.

Once he had picked a location, he used The Photographer’s Ephemeris and Google Maps to scout and line up his shot.

Watson was shooting with four cameras and five lenses: two Nikon D810 DSLRs, a Sony a6500, a Sony a7S II, a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, a Nikon 85mm f/1.8, a 25mm f/2.2 lens, and a Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 lens.

“I have never shot a rocket launch before, so I did not know exactly what to expect as far as exposure or precise location of the rocket in the horizon,” Watson says. “I wanted to be prepared to capture comprehensive coverage of the spectacle.

“I was a little off target on my initial shot, but thanks to the high-resolution aspect of shooting time-lapse on the Nikon D810 and wide angle lens, I was able to crop into the 6K time-lapse sequence and salvage the framing.

“I wrapped up a few minutes after the glowing contrail faded. I ended up shooting 2452 images and culled that down to 1315 images for the final project […]”

You can find more of Watson’s work on his Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.