Ethereal Whirlpool of Light Captivates Alaskans

The bizarre spiral appeared above Alaska on April 15. (Image credit: Todd Salat/

A mesmerizing spiral of light recently appeared in the Alaskan night sky, leaving onlookers stunned and mystified. The luminous vortex was not related to the Northern Lights, which were already dancing in the sky. Instead, it was the result of rocket fuel frozen in space, reflecting sunlight back to Earth. Astronomers have dubbed this phenomenon "SpaceX spirals," and they are becoming more common with the increasing number of SpaceX launches.

Formation of the Spiral

Video footage of the spiral captured at the University of Alaska's Poker Flat Research Range. (Image credit: Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks)

The spiral was spotted above Alaska on April 15th, 2023, at around midnight local time. The University of Alaska's Poker Flat Research Range near Fairbanks captured footage of the spiral forming from an initial bright spot into a massive galaxy-shaped object. The spiral continued to grow until it faded into nothingness, lasting about seven minutes in total.

Todd Salat, an astrophotographer who captured an image of the spiral above Donnelly Dome near Delta Junction, was surprised and mystified when he first spotted a distant bright light coming from the northern horizon. At first, he thought it was a jet airliner flying through clouds, but it soon took on the spiral shape and grew quickly.

A still from the video footage captured at Poker Flat Research Range. (Image credit: Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks)

Cause of the Spiral

The spiral was made up of fuel ejected by a Falcon 9 rocket launched from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base three hours before the whirlpool appeared. The rocket deployed 51 satellites into Earth's orbit, bolstering SpaceX's Starlink constellation and satellite networks belonging to other private companies.

Not every SpaceX rocket launch leads to a SpaceX spiral. Many occur above the vast, empty expanse of the Pacific Ocean, or during the day when they are not visible at all. However, the spirals have become more common in recent years due to the increasing number of SpaceX launches.

Other Rocket-Derived Light Shows

SpaceX is not the only cause of these rocket-derived light shows. In April 2022, frozen fuel from a Chinese rocket created a spinning orb of light that photobombed an auroral display above Alaska. In October 2017, an even larger blue orb was seen in the sky above Siberia, resulting from frozen fuel left by Russian military rocket tests in the area.

Post a Comment