A photographer hunting for aurora in Alaska was treated to quite the spectacle on the night of April 15, 2023. As Todd Salat watched the sky, a bright spiral illuminated it, piercing through the auroras that he had been photographing. He captured a timelapse of the event and shared it on social media.
The photographs of the spiral are very similar to some we’ve seen in the past. While the event itself was bright and exciting, the reason behind it is just as mundane as the previous spirals that have been captured making their way through the sky.
Much like similar spirals spotted in the sky over New Zealand, the spirals seen in the photographs captured by Todd Salat are the remnants of propellant released from a SpaceX rocket that carried more satellites into orbit as part of the Transporter-7 mission.
This explanation takes away a bit of the mystery of the spirals, and since we’ve already seen them several times in the past, they’re not quite as alluring as they once were. Still, they are a treat for those who are out looking to capture these kinds of events.
Unfortunately, the remaining allure of such objects is bound to falter even more as more companies release satellites into orbit. Still, Salat says that he was genuinely surprised when the spiral of light appeared in the sky above him.
Salat says he spotted the spiral in the sky over Donnelly Dome near Delta Junction, Alaska. He has captured photos of several auroras over the years, even going by the name Aurora Hunter online. However, this was the first time he captured an image like the spiral.
The propellant that caused the spiral in the sky was released from the Falcon 9’s upper stage after it had delivered its payload into orbit. Similar whirlpool-like objects have also been noted over Hawaii in the past.