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What is the mysterious flying spiral that appeared in the night sky above Hawaii?

The phenomena was spotted by space telescopes on Hawaii which were apparently left by a SpaceX launch a fortnight ago.

What is the mysterious flying spiral that appeared in the night sky above Hawaii?
Steven WattREUTERS

Followers of UFOs got a shock when a shrunken version of the Milky Way appeared in the night sky in January. The light blue mass had tongues wagging on social media as to its origin.

It seems there is a far more mundane answer to what the spiral is.

“The spiral seems to be related to the SpaceX company’s launch of a new satellite,” Subaru Telescope officials from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan wrote in a tweet.

Similar sights were observed after previous launches, such as in New Zealand.

The swirl is created when gas from rocket engines are at a higher pressure than the atmosphere, with the gas being illuminated by the sun.

What are the details of the SpaceX launch?

The satellite was launched into orbit at 7:24 a.m. local time on 18 January. Carrying GPS equipment, the aim was to replace a 16-year-old satellite to ensure the GPS tracking network remains intact. The swirl is not the result of any failure on the rocket’s part.

“This was a textbook launch, reflecting a highly professional, experienced team executing well-honed procedures and the results speak for themselves,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen Purdy Jr., program executive officer for Space Systems Command’s ‘Assured Access to Space’ division.