A photographer captures a strange blue spiral of light in the night sky

A strange blue spiral of light, captured on camera in the night sky?

As much as we’d like it to be, we now know they’re not aliens (they’re never aliens, okay?).

But little green men aside, the phenomenon captured over Rakiura (or Stewart Island) in New Zealand by stargazing guide Twinkle Day Dark Sky tours Alasdair Burns on Sunday still had people wondering. scratch their heads.

The photo was taken at 7:25 p.m. local time using a long exposure, after Burns received a text from a friend who had spotted something in the sky.

What the hell.
Credit: Alasdair Burns/Twinkle Dark Sky Tours

So what caused the blue spiral?

University of Auckland physicist Professor Richard Easther told the Guardian it was likely a cloud formed by a rocket carrying a satellite into orbit – most likely SpaceX’s Globalstar FM15 launch on Sunday, which was the spaceflight company’s last mission accomplishing three launches in just 36 hours. .

On Friday, SpaceX launched several of its Starlink internet satellites from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. On Saturday, it was a German military satellite from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base. And on Sunday it was a communication satellite for the American company Globalstar, launched by a Falcon 9 rocket into low Earth orbit from Cape Canaveral.

Yes, that’s a lot.


SpaceX achieves incredible feat of 3 launches in 36 hours

According to Easther, Sunday’s Globalstar mission is linked to the spiral image taken by Burns.

“When the propellant is ejected out the back, you have what is essentially water and carbon dioxide – which briefly forms a cloud in sunlit space,” he explained to the outlet. .

“The geometry of the satellite’s orbit and also the way we sit in relation to the sun – that combination of things was just to produce these completely goofy clouds that were visible from the South Island.”

So a fairly mundane explanation in the end, but still an undeniably cool image.

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