Crystals of frozen fuel leaked from Elon Musk's Falcon 9-Then, an observatory telescope captured a whirlpool that formed

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Is Elon Musk to blame for the recent sighting of a brilliant whirlpool of light?
A strange whirlpool that a telescope caught on camera is said to have been caused by Elon Musk's recent rocket launch.Photo byDOPE Quick Reads/Steve Jurvetson, CC BY 2.0

According to astronomers, a mysterious burst of light reminiscent of a spiral galaxy or whirlpool was likely caused by ice crystals from frozen fuel jettisoned into the atmosphere after the rocket, Falcon 9, was launched from its spaceport. As it is well-known that Elon Musk launches satellites, the rocket was launched carrying a US Space Force GPS satellite (GPS 3 SV-06). [i]

How was the whirlpool of light captured?

Mauna Kea Summit Observatories captured the phenomenon on January 18, 2023. The experts employed at the observatory described the galaxy-shaped spiral as having moved across the sky for nearly an hour. Further footage of the whirlpool in the night sky was captured by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan’s Subaru Telescope. [ii]

Witnesses from the observatory who observed the luminous spiral while it was forming claim that initially, the brilliant brightening of the sky started developing as a tiny dot. The onlookers continue, describing how they watched as it slowly began to morph into a more enormous “blob.” They say the spectacle then ejected into an arc-like feature. The light then became slightly more prominent and slowly transformed into a spiral. [iii]

How do experts explain the formation of the spiral-shaped light?

Experts say that the launch from earlier that day into a medium-Earth orbit is likely responsible. Astronomers have explained the spectacle by describing their theory. They have their own suspicions about how it was formed. Following the deployment of a new GPS satellite, all remaining fuel was ejected. The satellite then re-entered the atmosphere. This resulted in a cloud of frozen corkscrew-shaped fuel crystals illuminated by the sunlight. [iv]

The captured video of the light show almost seems unreal. Watch for yourself in the shared video below.

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[i] Space Weather, ‘Night Spiral’ over HI (Jan 21, 2023)

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id.

[iv] Id.

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