They were formed by the launch of the NPOESS Preparatory Project spacecraft from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Santa Barbara.
But until the authorities, weighed in, many were wondering and speculating what was causing the odd looking lights that were first reported about 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday was the fourth time the mission has been delayed.
Social media was filled with photos, videos and questions Wednesday night about the strangely illuminated smoke contrail seen in the skies that were visible across the Bay Area and Northern California.
The answer: Probably a meteor.
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The government said the plans - which include chartering boats and stockpiling medicines - are a sensible precaution. A "cooling-off" period will they could not return under the same route the following year.
Tonight's rocket launch was scrubbed.
The next launch window starts at 5:31 p.m. Thursday. On Dec. 8, the launch was scrubbed just 7.5 seconds before its scheduled liftoff due to a technical glitch.
Rocket launches from the California air base have created stunning light shows in the skies over the West Coast.
The United Launch Alliance rocket carrying a reconnaissance satellite had been set to take off at 5:44 p.m.
As is customary when spy satellites are launched, NRO and ULA have offered very little information about the payload being carried into space.