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Atlas V rocket launch dazzles early risers across Florida

Viewers in South Florida report strange streak in sky

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Early risers across Florida were treated to a morning spectacle Thursday when a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket vaulted off the pad at Cape Canaveral, its massive exhaust plume illuminated by sunlight waiting just over the horizon.

Shortly after the 6:13 a.m. liftoff from Launch Complex 41, exhaust produced by the RD-180 engine and five solid rocket motors interacted with sunlight high in the atmosphere, creating a "jellyfish effect" seen as far as the state's west coast, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.

Residents in South Florida also reported seeing a strange streak in the sky.

[GALLERY: Check out viewer photos of Atlas V rocket launch]

On board the 200-foot-tall rocket was the fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency spacecraft, a military communications satellite.

AEHF-5 was slated to reach its intended orbit on the rocket's second stage about five-and-a-half hours after liftoff, or just before noon Thursday.

The launch wrapped up a busy week for the Eastern Range, which also hosted a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch on Tuesday.

But the month has at least one more mission: a ULA Delta IV rocket -- the last of its kind -- is slated to launch no earlier than Aug. 22.