Strange spirals of lights sparked extraterrestrial concerns for New Zealand stargazers – but it turned out there was a straightforward explanation: Elon Musk.
The extraordinary sight lit up the sky on Sunday, starting at Nelson, a city at the top of New Zealand's south island, before travelling 750km south to Stewart Island.
Theories were rife among stargazers, but it was soon revealed that the SpaceX CEO Musk launched a third rocket flight in 36 hours: the Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Globalstar DM15 satellites.
The New Plymouth Astronomical Society took to Facebook to theorise it was "most likely a "fuel dump" or "exhaust plume" from a SpaceX rocket launch", as similar effects have been seen before.
They explained that a rocket "dumping fuel" is necessary for safety and to ensure the machine doesn't explode.
"At such a high altitude, the fuel is dissipated quickly and poses no environmental threat to the Earth," they explained.
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\u201cTaken in Queenstown NZ about 30 minute's ago. Any ideas what it is? Some speculating it's got something to do with SpaceX @elonmusk\u201d— Clare Rehill \ud83d\udfe5\ud83c\udf38 \ud83c\uddee\ud83c\uddea (@Clare Rehill \ud83d\udfe5\ud83c\udf38 \ud83c\uddee\ud83c\uddea) 1655626428
One South Island stargazer witnessed the sight for himself, calling it the strangest thing he had seen.
Alasdair Burns, 34, told Stuff: "It was absolutely bizarre. It was like a massive spiral. And it very, very slowly, serenely moving north across the night sky and then just sort of dissipating as it went."
Another onlooker, Māpua local Augustine Matthews, 54, watched the scenes from the deck with her husband.
She called the blue spiral "really beautiful" to watch, telling the outlet: “It looked like a planet or star. It was just a white dot with a tiny spiral. And within 10 minutes, it had traversed half the sky and the spiral had grown three times in size,”
“It wasn’t blinking or twinkling, and it was moving fairly fast... so fascinating,” she said.
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