SpaceX rocket leaves its signature on the sky

Emre Çitak
Apr 19, 2023

In the early hours of Saturday, northern lights admirers were captivated by a remarkable sight in the Alaskan sky. Amid the majestic aurora, a light blue spiral reminiscent of a galaxy emerged for a few minutes, leaving spectators in awe.

The spectacular phenomenon was a result of excess fuel discharged from a SpaceX rocket, which had been launched from California about three hours prior to the spiral's appearance. Although not a common sight, space physicist Don Hampton, a research associate professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, has witnessed such occurrences around three times in his career.

He stated:

"When rockets need to jettison fuel at high altitudes, that fuel turns into ice," Hampton explained. "And if it happens to be in the sunlight while you're in darkness on the ground, you can see it as a sort of big cloud, and sometimes it's swirly".

SpaceX rocket's marks on the skies were photographed

The captivating swirl was captured in a time-lapse by the Geophysical Institute's all-sky camera, and the images quickly spread across the internet. "It created a bit of an internet storm with that spiral," Hampton remarked. Photographers observing the northern lights show also posted their photos on social media, adding to the online buzz.

SpaceX rocket spiral
SpaceX rocket left a spiral mark on Alaskan skies - Photograph: Christopher Hayden/AP

This isn't the first time such a spiral has been spotted. In January, another spiral appeared over Hawaii's Big Island. A camera at the summit of Mauna Kea, outside the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan's Subaru telescope, captured a spiral swirling through the night sky. Researchers determined that this spiral was a result of a military GPS satellite launch on a SpaceX rocket in Florida.


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