THIS is the moment drivers crash into each other after being distracted by the launch of a SpaceX rocket.
Dashcam footage shows the rocket first appearing in the night’s sky on the outskirt of the city of Banning near Los Angeles before a careless driver caused a pile-up on the motorway.
The eerie sight on Saturday is seen bringing traffic to a standstill in the outside lane – but suddenly a vehicle ploughs into the back of the car in front.
The impact, which can be seen about 40 seconds in to the clip, sends the car smashing into a third vehicle, as the driver with the dashcam swerves out of the way to avoid crashing.
Meanwhile in Los Angeles the city's infamously busy traffic was brought to a standstill.
It was seen forming around the moving craft as it shot across the Californian sky.
One news report said that at least 130 people in just one part of LA County called 911.
Calls came in to TV stations as far afield as San Diego.
Cars stopped on freeways in Los Angeles so drivers and passengers could take pictures and video.
Among those astonished at the skyward spectacle was will.i.am who posted a video to Twitter and asked his millions of followers: "What is this in the sky?"
Jimmy Golen, a sports writer for The Associated Press in Boston who was in Southern California for the holidays, said he and other tourists saw the long, glowing contrail while touring Warner Bros. studio in the Los Angeles suburb of Burbank.
"People were wondering if it had something to do with movies, or TV or a UFO," he said.
"It was very cool."
But the UFO was to become an identified flying object.
It turned out to be a reused SpaceX rocket carried 10 satellites into orbit from California on Friday, leaving behind a trail of mystery and wonder as it soared into space.
The Falcon 9 booster lifted off from coastal Vandenberg Air Force Base, carrying the latest batch of satellites for Iridium Communications.
The launch in the setting sun created a shining, billowing streak that was widely seen throughout Southern California and as far away as Phoenix.
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