Mysterious spiral over the Arctic outshone Aurora: Photo

Last week, a strange white vortex appeared in the night sky, which even outshone an aurora over the Arctic. The mysterious, at first glance, galaxy-like spectacle was actually formed as a result of the release of a cloud of frozen fuel into space by the SpaceX rocket. Astronomers call this rare phenomenon the “SpaceX spiral” and predict that it will become an increasingly frequent phenomenon in space. 

During an aurora, a large swirl of white light known as the “SpaceX spiral” was photographed over Iceland. Image credit: Shang Yang

The incident happened on March 4, during the launch of the Transport-10 mission. It was started by the Falcon 9 launch vehicle, which launched from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The rocket carried 53 satellites from various commercial space companies and successfully launched them into low Earth orbit about two hours after launch.

After the payload was put, the second stage of the rocket, separated from the reusable booster of the first stage, descended into the Earth’s atmosphere over the Barents Sea in the Arctic. During this descent, the rocket began to rotate and there were remnants of fuel in the upper atmosphere, which began to freeze quickly and reflect sunlight. This event created an eerie and mysterious spiral pattern for an unprepared observer.

SpaceX spiral over Iceland. Photo: Bettina Begtoft

One of the eyewitnesses of the event were photographers Shang Yang and Olivier Staiger. They managed to take an exciting photo on the night of March 5th. Describing the surreal scene against the background of the Northern Lights, the astrophotographers shared their impressions. According to them, the spectacular sight lasted for about 10 minutes before it completely dissipated. Residents of Norway and Finland also witnessed the event.

The next SpaceX spiral phenomenon is expected to appear over the Arctic during the next Transport-12 mission this October.

Earlier, we reported on how a mysterious spiral of light in the night sky puzzled observers.

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