The appearance of an unusual spiral of blue light in the New Zealand sky has amazed stargazers – and theories ranging from aliens to black holes.
Astronomer Alasdair Burns, who runs the stargazing business Twinkle Dark Sky Tours, spotted the sight from the country’s Stewart Island.
“It’s totally weird,” he told Stuff news site.
“It’s like a giant spiral. And it’s very, very slow, serenely moving north across the night sky and then dissipating as it goes.”
He told TV3: “At first glance, it almost looks like a spiral galaxy hanging in the night sky.”
Jen Ross, also from Twinkle Dark Sky Tours, said: “It’s like nothing we’ve seen before. It’s unbelievable.
“Standing there looking up at it, I think it’s aliens or an opening black hole that we’re all going to get sucked into.”
What actually causes the light spiral?
Professor Richard Easther, from the University of Auckland, explains what can cause the unusual light show.
“As far as we can tell, it’s made by sunlight catching on the exhaust [fumes] from the second stage of the SpaceX rocket was operational again about an hour after it was put into orbit at Cape Canaveral,” he told TV3.
“It’s amazing, I wish I’d seen it.”
While Elon Musk’s SpaceX has yet to confirm it’s behind the phenomenon, the company’s third rocket flight in 36 hours – a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Globalstar DM15 satellite – is widely believed to be responsible. .
Mr. Burns, who photographed the spiral, explains how the rocket can cause such an unusual celestial sight.
“If that exhaust is emitted in a direction other than straight back, it can cause the rocket’s staging to rotate and it behaves like a rocket nozzle and that exhaust goes out in a direction,” he said. spiral,” he said.
Sadly, at least for those hoping the vortex is evidence of extraterrestrial activity, Professor Easther rules out alien involvement.
“Yeah, I think so, that’s us,” he said.