Physicists and other experts agree that a SpaceEx rocket launch was behind the unusual sighting in the Northern skies a week earlier. Experts needed an answer to the reports of a mysterious light over the Aurora Borealis for the startled night sky watchers who reported seeing the mysterious spiral light move across their line of sight. As a result, social media and newsrooms received tons of photos. Moreover, phone calls likely flooded emergency service agencies.
CBC News reported that Talia McDonald and her partner snapped photos and speculated that the bluish-purple glow came from a UFO. McDonald said the northern lights were pretty spectacular then, so she wondered if the glowing spiral was somehow connected.
The New York Times wrote about another witness initially thinking it was a plane. Ronnie Cole, an Alaska Photo Treks tour guide, saw the glow in the early hours of Saturday, April 15, 2023. He first thought: “There was something weird about the light,” according to The New York Times.
Cole reported that the light emerged much larger after passing behind a cloud. “That’s when I realized that it was something else. I’ve spent about 1,000-plus hours watching the night sky every winter.” The blue spiral made its way across the green and red tones of the Aurora Borealis and stayed in sight for about three minutes. Cole added that it was undoubtedly the most unusual thing he had ever seen. “And I see a lot of weird things in the sky.”
Stargazers in Alaska, USA were treated to an unusual sight; an eerie, pale blue spiral that appeared in the night sky. It emerged during a display of the Northern Lights, where charged particles from the sun interacted with the Earth's atmosphere to produce bright bands of green. pic.twitter.com/4nki2UGB9v
— kuwaitnews.masaha (@MasahaKWT) April 19, 2023
SpaceX Rocket Is the Culprit
On April 17, Don Hampton, a physicist at the University of Alaska, told CBC the light had nothing to do with the northern lights. Instead, swirly light’s origin is more earthbound, a SpaceX rocket.
He was asleep when the reports that Alaskan Aurora Borealis watchers spotted started coming in. However, heard all about the sighting and viewed images captured by the university’s Aurora Borealis camera located at the Poker Flat Research Range.
“I have seen some of these before, so I figured it must be a launch,” Hampton explained. As a result, he quickly determined it was a SpaceX rocket launched from the Vandenberg Space Force base in California a few hours before the mysterious light appeared in the Alaska sky. According to CBC, the rocket would have been on its second orbit over Alaska, about the time people saw the spiral.
In the hours before the “wild-looking spiral dancing through the sky” prompted Aurora Borealis photographers to flood the internet, SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off Saturday, April 15, at 2:48 a.m. ET.
Hampton said the spiral was a fuel-based vapor that was ejected from the rocket. These vapors are visible under the right conditions.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
The New York Times: A Mysterious Spiral in the Alaska Sky Had an Earthly Explanation; by Remy Tumin
The Washington Post: Mysterious spiral over Alaska probably a result of SpaceX launch; by Kasha Patel
Review Geek: SpaceX Rocket Caused A Stunning Spiral Light Over the Aurora Borealis; by Cory Gunter
CBC: Mysterious spiral of light spotted in North caused by SpaceX rocket, physicist says
Space.com: SpaceX launches 51 small satellites, lands rocket back on Earth
Featured and Top Image by Bill Ingalls for NASA Courtesy of Flickr – Creative Commons License
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