Spirals Of Blue Light: Stargazers in New Zealand were surprised to see strange, spiraling light formations in the sky on Sunday night. Photos of these structures were shared widely on social media. Many New Zealanders likened them to some kind of “wormhole”. But experts said that these “weird-looking clouds” were caused by the Falcon 9 rocket that was carrying the Globalstar DM15 satellite.
This extraordinary sight was first observed by residents of Nelson, a town on the North Island of New Zealand, 750 km south of Stewart Island.
This incident became the reason for discussion on social media
Facebook user Inch Justin posted in the New Zealand group Astronomy, “I saw a view similar to this picture posted tonight at about 1920, Rangiora at high altitude, west of Canterbury.”
Users flooded this post with comments. One user said, “Yes, many of us saw it from Hawke’s Bay to Canis Major, then headed northeast.” Another user said, “It’s definitely cool.”
What do experts say?
According to The Guardian, Professor Richard Eicher, a physicist at the University of Auckland, explained the reason behind the phenomenon is that clouds of this nature sometimes form when a rocket takes a satellite into orbit. “When the propellant is ejected from behind, you essentially have water and carbon dioxide – which in essence forms a cloud in space that is illuminated by the Sun,” he said. “The combination of the geometry of the satellite’s orbit and the way we are sitting relative to the Sun was perfect to produce the unique clouds that were visible from the South Island,” he said.
The New Plymouth Astronomical Society said on Facebook that it could in fact be a “fuel dump” or “exhaust plume” from a SpaceX rocket launch, as similar effects have been observed before.
According to Professor Isher, the rocket being discussed was the Falcon 9, which SpaceX used on Sunday to send a satellite into low-Earth orbit.
SpaceX chief Elon Musk congratulated the Falcon team for the launch. He said on Twitter, “Congratulations to the SpaceX Falcon team on making 3 flawless launches in 2 days!”
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