Spirals of shimmering blue neon lights appeared in the sky, confusing and delighting those who saw them.
The hazy blue lights looked like a small galaxy forming in the sky, noted people in New Zealand who watched the rare formation appear on Sunday night.
The strange sights led to a flurry of reports and confusion on social media as people sought explanations as to what was fueling the distorted lights.
Soon after, the screen’s source was revealed: a SpaceX rocket releasing fuel shortly after launch.
Residents of Queenstown, Auckland and Motueka posted the photos on Twitter and Facebook, asking if anyone knew what the strange appearance in the sky looked like.
Reported to be brighter in some parts of the Pacific, the spiral was also seen in Fiji, Samoa, New Caledonia and the tiny island of Tokelau, it reported.New Zealand Herald.
The photos showed the dark night sky full of stars and the blue spiral in the middle with multiple arms.
“It feels like a rocket spinning out of control,” social media user Evan McKay said on Facebook.
Local astronomy groups on social media were full of people sharing photos from across the island.
Putting locals’ curiosity to rest, the country’s New Plymouth Astronomical Society confirmed that the occurrence in the sky was not suspicious alien activity, but rather a phenomenon caused by human activities following the launch of the SpaceX rocket.
“The ‘spiral’ that was seen in the sky tonight around 7:30 pm was likely a ‘fuel dump’ or ‘exhaust cloud’ from a SpaceX rocket launch,” the cohort said on Facebook in a post.
He added: “Similar effects have been seen before, and SpaceX’s Globalstar 2 FM15 likely passed through New Zealand around this time.
“It is shown in the video below passing south of NZ just over an hour into its flight, which would have been around 5:30am, and would likely have passed again around 90-120 minutes later, which would have been around 7:30am. ”
This was borne out by SpaceX, which carried out three successful launches of Falcon 9 over the weekends, sending a total of 55 satellites into space.
One of the users asked the society why the fuel dumps the rocket, to which the group said there is an explanation as to why the fuel is dumped after the rocket stages separations.
“The reason it’s done is for safety; to minimize the risk of a vehicle explosion, which in turn would create a large amount of space junk, or orbital debris that would put other space vehicles in danger. At such a high altitude, the fuel dissipates quickly and does not pose an environmental threat to Earth,” said the New Plymouth Astronomical Society.
With the all-time record of three missions by a commercial launch company, SpaceX was able to put its Globalstar communications satellite into orbit on Sunday.
“SpaceX placed a Globalstar communications satellite into orbit early Sunday from Cape Canaveral, making the third flight of the Falcon 9 rocket in 36 hours, the fastest sequence of three missions of any commercial launch company in history,” said the report. space activity tracker on Spaceflight social media. Now.