Shortly after SpaceX launched its navigation satellite into orbit, a Japanese telescope earlier this month discovered a glowing vortex-like layer rotating above Hawaii’s volcano.
The Hawaii-based Subaru Telescope tweeted from its English account on January 20, “The Subaru Asahi Star camera caught a mysterious flying whirlpool.” “
Flying over the dormant Mauna Kea volcano on January 18, the formation first appeared as a small, towering white object before emitting arcing waves and slowly spiraling out. The helix then faded out into a ring-like shape, ending the stunning visual transformation captured on video.
At approximately 7:24 am that day, SpaceX launched a global positioning satellite into medium orbit using a Falcon 9 rocket that took off from Space Force Station Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Satellite launch footage shows the rocket exploding into the blue and orange morning sky, marking one of the company’s first missions in 2023.
A similar spiral has been previously reported after other SpaceX launches. In June, a photo was taken hovering over Queenstown, New Zealand, on the same day the Falcon 9 was launched into the air from the same Florida location.
Similarly, the glowing vortex was imaged by the Subaru telescope over Hawaii in April after the Falcon 9 rocket launched the satellite into orbit.
Some space-focused online communities speculate that the spiral shape seen after rocket launch is caused by the release of leftover fuel.
The Subaru Telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea is operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, a research institute. Last week, telescopes also spotted a long, flickering beam of green light in the sky. It is believed to have come from a remote sensing laser from another satellite.
SpaceX and Japan’s National Astronomical Observatory did not immediately respond to requests for comment.