Dying SpaceX Rocket Leaves Glowing, Galaxy-Like Spiral Amidst the Northern Lights Phenomenon

A large swirl of white light that temporarily outshone vibrant auroras in the Arctic last week was triggered by the death throes of a SpaceX rocket that deployed more than 50 satellites into space.

Mysterious spiral over the Arctic outshines an aurora

A large swirl of white light, known as a “SpaceX spiral” was photographed during an aurora display above Iceland last week. (Image credit: Shang Yang)

A massive swirl of bright white light seemingly appeared from out of nowhere in the night sky above the Arctic last week, briefly upstaging a vibrant aurora display that spanned thousands of miles.

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The ethereal, galaxy-shaped light show was caused by an illuminated cloud of frozen fuel that was dumped in space by a SpaceX rocket, which released dozens of satellites into low-Earth orbit.

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Astronomers call this rare phenomenon a “SpaceX spiral,” and expect them to become a much more common sight in the future.

On March 4, at 5:05 p.m. EST, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The rocket was part of the Transport-10 mission and was carrying 53 satellites belonging to several different commercial space companies, which were successfully released into orbit around our planet around two hours after launch, Space.com reported.

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Shortly after payload deployment, the rocket’s second stage, which had already separated from the rocket’s reusable first-stage booster, began to de-orbit and later burned up in the atmosphere above the Barents Sea in the Arctic. During this maneuver, the spinning rocket dumped its remaining fuel into space, which then froze into tiny crystals that spread out in a spiral shape and reflected sunlight to Earth.

Sia

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