Over the past weekend, stargazers in Alaska had the opportunity to see a ghostly, light-blue spiral in the sky. It appeared during a display of the Northern Lights when charged particles from the sun interacted with Earth’s atmosphere to produce a spectacular show of green bands of light.
The spiral may look like a UFO or portal, but its origins are mundane. A SpaceX rocket lifted from California. As the rocket went across space, it burned through its extra fuel. During its slow descent into the ocean, the Falcon 9’s upper stage is supposed to release excess fuel, which freezes and crystallizes into a spiral.
The fuel drop occurred at an optimal period for visibility above Alaska, leading to a minor uproar on the web. Many tweeted photos they had taken of the northern lights show on social media, with one Twitter user claiming they saw the “aliens have arrived.”
Fairbanks, Alaska, resident Randell Mailloux published a photo to Facebook with the caption “the most insane thing he’d ever seen.”
This is not the first time an audience member has reported seeing a UFO during a SpaceX launch. In January, a second spiral was spotted, this time over Hawaii’s Big Island.
New Zealanders saw a strange blue spiral in the sky in June of last year and were left wondering if it had come from another planet. However, researchers have since established that the event was caused by a piece of man-made debris in the form of a failed rocket launched by Musk’s company.
SpaceX set a new year record in 2018 with 61 launches, more than doubling the company’s 2017 total of 31 flights. On Monday, the company attempted to launch its first orbital Starship, but technical difficulties caused Musk to delay the mission for “a few days.”