New Zealand astronomers were startled by strange, undulating light formations in the night sky on Sunday evening. The images have been widely shared on social media, with many New Zealanders comparing them to a kind of “wormhole”. But experts said the “strange clouds” were caused by the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the DM15 Global Star satellite.
The extraordinary sight was first recorded by residents of Nelson, a town in New Zealand’s North Island, and was visible 750km south of Stewart Island.
“Does anyone know if there is a satellite orbiting New Zealand tonight or possibly an Australian satellite that saw something like the picture I posted tonight around 1920 , looking slightly west at high altitude from Rangiora Canterbury? », a Facebook user justin Posted in Astronomy Group New Zealand.
“The picture you posted is just an example of what I saw. I couldn’t take a picture of it, I just broke my benno and saw what looked like a satellite in the middle of a snail moving north at significant speed,” the user also said.
Users flooded the group with comments. One user commented: “Yes, many of us saw it from Hawk’s Bay, near the tail of the Grand Canis, then northeast.”
Another said: “It’s absolutely amazing.”
Professor Richard Easter, a physicist at the University of Auckland, explained the reason for this phenomenon. Such clouds sometimes appear when a rocket launches a satellite into orbit, he said. guardian†
“When the propellant is ejected out the back, you have what is essentially water and carbon dioxide – briefly forming a cloud in sunlit space,” Prof Easter said. “The geometry of the satellite’s orbit and the way we sit relative to the sun – that combination of things was just to produce these totally weird clouds that were visible from the South Island.”
The New Plymouth Astronomical Society said on Facebook that it was “most likely a ‘fuel spill’ or ‘exhaust plume’ from a SpaceX rocket launch”, and similar effects have occurred. also been observed before.
According to Professor Easter, the rocket in question is the Falcon 9, which SpaceX used to send a satellite into low Earth orbit on Sunday.
SpaceX Chairman Elon Musk praised the Falcon team for the launches. “Congratulations to the SpaceX Falcon team for achieving 3 flawless launches in 2 days!” he said on Twitter.
“Devoted bacon guru. Award-winning explorer. Internet junkie. Web lover.”