The breathtakingly beautiful blue spiral in the Alaskan sky captivates all who witness it. With its mesmerising and entrancing colours, it is a sight that many come to enjoy and take in. It is unique and almost impossible to keep one’s eyes off of, with its ever shifting colours, shapes and sizes.
Who is not fascinated by the aurora borealis? Alaska is a privileged site for their observation. But something added to the green bands of light dancing overhead: the blue spiral in the Alaskan sky. What was it that looked like a galaxy?
It appeared for a few minutes. The phenomenon was recorded early Saturday morning. What was the cause? It was not a portal to the far reaches of the universe. It was simply excess fuel ejected by a SpaceX rocket. It left California about three hours before the spiral appeared.
Not a galaxy
Sometimes rockets have fuel that needs to be ejected. Don Hampton is a professor at the University of Alaska Geophysical Institute in Fairbanks. He explains:
“When they do that at a high altitude, the fuel turns to ice. What if it happens to be in sunlight, when you’re in the dark on the ground? Then it will look like a kind of big cloud, and sometimes it swirls.”
The appearance of the swirl was captured by the Geophysical Institute’s panoramic camera. It was shown in a fast-motion video that was widely broadcast. “That swirl created a kind of internet storm,” Hampton explained.
Photographers who attended the aurora borealis show also posted their photos. The rocket that lifted off Friday night carried 25 satellites as payloads. It was a polar launch, making it visible over a wide swath of Alaska.
“They had performed a sort of a fuel dump. It was at the right time for us to get this incredible spiral,” he commented. And although it looked like a galaxy passing over Alaska, Hampton said it was not.
“I can tell you it’s not a galaxy,” he pointed out. The blue spiral in the Alaskan sky is just water vapor reflecting sunlight.”
An aurora borealis is a luminescence phenomenon that occurs in the night sky. It usually occurs in the polar areas. It occurs when one of the solar particles collides with the Earth’s magnetosphere. Thus appears the “solar wind”, which moves along the sphere under colorful visual effects.