New Zealand stargazers were left puzzled and awed by strange, spiraling light formations in the night sky on Sunday night.
At about 7:25pm, Alasdair Burns, a stargazing guide on Stewart Island, also called Rakiura, received a text from a friend saying to go outside and look at the sky.
He went out and saw a huge, blue spiral of light amid the darkness.
“It looked like an enormous spiral galaxy, just hanging there in the sky,” Burns said. “Quite an eerie feeling.”
“We quickly banged on the doors of all our neighbors to get them out as well. And so there were about five of us, all out on our shared veranda looking up and just kind of, well, freaking out just a little bit,” he said.
The country’s stargazing and amateur astronomy social media groups lit up with people posting photographs and questions about the phenomenon, which was visible from most of the South Island. Theories abounded, from UFOs to foreign rockets to commercial light displays.
The reality was likely a little more prosaic, said Richard Easther, a physicist at Auckland University, who called the phenomenon “weird but easily explained.”
Clouds of that nature sometimes occur when a rocket carries a satellite into orbit, he said.
“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,” Easther said.
“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,” he said.
Easther said the rocket in question was likely the Globalstar launch from SpaceX, which the company sent into low-earth orbit from Florida on Sunday.
Burns had guessed the spiral was likely a rocket, having read about a similar phenomenon in 2009, when a Russian missile launch created huge blue spirals over Norway.
“None of us had ever seen anything like that before. It was spectacular,” he said.
An uncrewed Chinese spacecraft has acquired imagery data covering all of Mars, including visuals of its south pole, after circling the planet more than 1,300 times since early last year, state media reported yesterday. The Tianwen-1 successfully reached the Red Planet in February last year on the country’s inaugural mission there. A robotic rover has since been deployed on the surface as an orbiter surveyed the planet from space. Among the images taken from space were China’s first photographs of the Martian south pole, where almost all of the planet’s water resources are locked. In 2018, an orbiting probe operated by the European
QUARANTINE SHORTENED: A new protocol detailing risk levels and local policy responses would be ‘more scientific and accurate,’ a health agency spokesman said China’s revised COVID-19 guidelines, which cut a quarantine requirement in half for inbound travelers, also create a standardized policy for mass testing and lockdowns when cases of the disease flare, showing that the country still has a zero-tolerance approach to the virus. Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) solidified the position during a trip to Wuhan, where the pathogen first emerged in 2019, saying that China is capable of achieving a “final victory” over the virus. The “zero COVID-19” policy is the most effective and economic approach for the country, Xi said during the trip on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported. The first
A flight test of a hypersonic missile system in Hawaii on Wednesday ended in failure due to a problem that occurred after ignition, the US Department of Defense said, delivering a fresh blow to a program that has experienced stumbles. It did not provide details of what took place in the test, but said in an e-mailed statement that “the department remains confident that it is on track to field offensive and defensive hypersonic capabilities on target dates beginning in the early 2020s.” “An anomaly occurred following ignition of the test asset,” Pentagon spokesman US Navy Lieutenant Commander Tim Gorman said in
China is racing to quash a new COVID-19 flareup that risks spilling over into one of its most economically significant regions, raising the specter of disruptions that could roil global supply chains for solar panels, medicines and semiconductors. Infections have surged in Si County in the eastern province of Anhui, with officials reporting 287 cases for Sunday and nearly 1,000 since late last week. Authorities locked down Si and a neighboring county late last week to try and stop the virus from spreading to Jiangsu Province, the second-biggest contributor to China’s economic output and a globally important manufacturing hub for the