Bizarre ‘Whirlpool’ Appears in the Night Sky Over Hawaii | Room

Bizarre ‘Whirlpool’ Appears in the Night Sky Over Hawaii | Room

A camera atop Hawaii’s tallest mountain has captured what appears to be a spiral swirling through the night sky.

Researchers believe the strange phenomenon is related to a military GPS satellite launched from a SpaceX rocket in Florida.

The images were captured Jan. 18 by a camera on top of Mauna Kea, outside Japan’s Subaru Telescope National Astronomical Observatory.

A time-lapse video shows a white sphere spreading out and forming a spiral as it moves through the sky. It fades and then disappears.

Ichi Tanaka, a researcher at the observatory, said he was doing other work that night and didn’t see it right away. Then, a stargazer watching the camera’s live stream on YouTube sent him a screenshot of the spiral via an online messaging platform.

“When I opened Slack, I saw that and it was an overwhelming event for me,” said Tanaka. Last April, he saw a similar spiral, also after a SpaceX launch, but it was bigger and fainter.

SpaceX launched a military satellite from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on the morning of Jan. 18. The spiral’s location matched where the SpaceX rocket’s second stage was expected to be after launch.

SpaceX did not respond to an email requesting comment.

Tanaka said the observatory installed the camera to monitor the environment outside the Subaru telescope and to share images of Mauna Kea’s clear sky. Someone looking at the sky in less bright conditions, say from Tokyo, may not have seen the spiral, he said.

The live stream is jointly managed with the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun and regularly attracts hundreds of viewers. Some people tune in to view meteors.

The top of Mauna Kea has some of it best viewing conditions on earth for astronomy, making it a favorite spot for the world’s most advanced observatories. The top is too considered sacred by many Native Hawaiianswho see it as a place where the gods live.

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