‘Absolutely bizarre’ spirals of blue light spotted in sky over New Zealand | world news
The appearance of an extraordinary spiral of blue light in the sky over New Zealand has sparked wonder among stargazers – and theories ranging from extraterrestrials to black holes.
Astronomer Alasdair Burns, who runs stargazing company Twinkle Dark Sky Tours, spotted the spectacle from the country’s Stewart Island.
“It was absolutely bizarre,” he told the Stuff News website.
“It was like a massive spiral. And it moved very, very slowly and quietly north across the night sky and then kind of dissipated as it moved.”
He told TV3: “At first glance it almost looked like a spiral galaxy just hanging like that in the night sky.”
Jen Ross, also from Twinkle Dark Sky Tours, said: “It was like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Just unbelievable.
“As I stood there and looked at it, I thought it was either aliens or a black hole that opened up and we were all being sucked into.”
What actually caused the spiral of light?
Professor Richard Easther of Auckland University explained the likely cause of the extraordinary light show.
“As far as we can tell, it’s caused by the sun catching the exhaust [fumes] from the second stage of a SpaceX rocket, which reignited about an hour after it was placed in Cape Canaveral orbit,” he told TV3.
“It’s amazing, I wish I had seen it.”
While Elon Musk’s SpaceX has yet to confirm it’s behind the phenomenon, it’s widely believed that the company’s third rocket flight in 36 hours — the Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Globalstar DM15 satellite — is responsible.
Mr. Burns, who photographed the spiral, explained how rockets could create such an unusual celestial spectacle.
“If that exhaust exits in any direction other than straight back, it can cause the staged portion of the rocket to rotate and it acts like a missile sprinkler and that exhaust goes out in a spiral,” he said.
Unfortunately, at least for those who hoped the spiral was evidence of extraterrestrial activity, Professor Easther ruled out extraterrestrial involvement.
“Yes, I think so, we were,” he said.