Spirals of blue light appear in New Zealand skies, experts point to SpaceX launch

Spirals of blue light appear in New Zealand skies, experts point to SpaceX launch

The blue spiral appeared in the night sky over New Zealand on Sunday.

Stargazers in New Zealand were surprised by strange, spiraling light formations in the night sky on Sunday night. The photos were shared widely on social media, with many New Zealanders likening them to some kind of “wormhole”. However, experts said these “crazy looking clouds” were caused by the Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Globalstar DM15 satellite.

The extraordinary sight was first captured by residents of Nelson, a town on New Zealand’s North Island and was visible 750 km south of Stewart Island.

“Does anyone know if a satellite was put into orbit over New Zealand tonight or perhaps an Australian satellite who saw something like the image I posted tonight at around 1920 looking slightly west at high elevation Rangiora Canterbury is looking,” Facebook user Inch Justin posted in Astronomy on the New Zealand group.

“The picture I uploaded is just an example of what I saw. Didn’t manage to get a picture of it, just grabbed my binoculars and observed what appeared to be a satellite in the center of the spiral, flying north at great speed from knots,” the user continued.

Users flooded the group with comments. “Yes, several of us saw it from Hawke’s Bay, near the tail of Canis major, as it then moved northeast,” commented one user.

“It’s definitely cool,” said another.

Prof Richard Easther, a physicist at Auckland University, explained the reason for the phenomenon. Clouds of this type sometimes appeared when a rocket launched a satellite into orbit, he said The guard.

“When the propellant is ejected backwards, you essentially have water and carbon dioxide — that momentarily forms a cloud in space that’s lit by the sun,” Professor Easther said. “The geometry of the satellite’s orbit and also the way we’re sitting relative to the sun — that combination of things was just right to create these completely insane looking clouds that were visible from the South Island.”

The New Plymouth Astronomical Society said on Facebook that it was “most likely a ‘fuel dump’ or ‘plume’ from a SpaceX rocket launch,” as similar effects had been observed before.

According to Professor Easther, the rocket in question was Falcon 9, which SpaceX used to send a satellite into low Earth orbit on Sunday.

SpaceX boss Elon Musk congratulated the Falcon team on the launches. “Congratulations to the SpaceX Falcon team for completing 3 flawless launches in 2 days!” he said on Twitter.