Sky watchers in New Zealand were left puzzled after a mysterious spiraling light appeared over the night skies. There’s a perfectly normal explanation for the phenomenon.
The strange event happened Sunday evening. It was first spotted in New Zealand’s city of Nelson, CNBC reported. By about 7.30 p.m. local time (3.30 a.m. ET), the strange spiral had traveled 730 kilometers (453.6 miles).
“It looked like an enormous spiral galaxy, just hanging there in the sky, and slowly just drifting across,” stargazing guide Alasdair Burns said, The Guardian reported. “Quite an eerie feeling.”
Many across the country caught a glimpse of the phenomenon and some of them even shared photos of it on social media.
One user also shared a stunning photo of the “crazy moving spiral” with the hashtag “UFO” and joked that her kids had “summoned a portal.”
“Taken in Queenstown NZ about 30 minute’s (sic) ago,” another user wrote, suggesting a possible connection with SpaceX. “Any ideas what this is?”
Sure enough, the event was likely connected to a SpaceX launch, and not a UFO.
It is “weird but easily explained,” Prof. Richard Easther, of Auckland University, told The Guardian. Easther said the phenomenon was likely formed due to SpaceX’s Globalstar launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Sunday
“When the propellant is ejected out the back, you have what’s essentially water and carbon dioxide–that briefly forms a cloud in space that’s illuminated by the sun,” Esther explained. “The geometry of the satellite’s orbit and also the way that we’re sitting relative to the sun–that combination of things was just right to produce these completely wacky-looking clouds that were visible from the South Island.”
This was not the first time that such spirals were spotted because of a SpaceX launch. Last April, a strange “flying whirlpool” was spotted over Hawaii. The Subaru Telescope mounted at the summit of Maunakea even captured a mesmerizing video of the event.
“‘What is it?’ ‘Wow UFO!?’ Though we hope we could keep it a mystery…it seems it is a falling 2nd-stage of the Falcon-9 (2nd Booster Rocket) by SpaceX which was launched about 2-hr earlier from California today,” the caption on the video read. “Well, surely it’s a rare view!”