Aurora Hunter Todd Salat Captures a Bizarre Spiral Made by a SpaceX Fuel Dump
Astrophotographer Todd Salat was out in the early hours of April 15, 2023, hoping to capture an aurora display over Donnelly Dome near Delta Junction, Alaska. While the stunning aurora didn’t disappoint, Salat was in for a surprise: a weird spiral appeared in the sky over the summit.
“I had no idea of what I was seeing,” Salat said on his website, “but this phenomenon appears to be caused by engine exhaust from a SpaceX Transporter-7 mission that launched southward on the Falcon 9 about three hours earlier from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.”
This isn’t the first time a SpaceX launch has created a mysterious swirl in the night sky. One was spotted above New Zealand last year in June following a Falcon 9 launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida. In January of this year, the Subaru Telescope captured a similar spiral sighting over Hawaii.
While SpaceX has not issued an official statement about any of the spiral sightings following their launches, it has commonly been understood the Falcon 9 second stage either performed an additional burn as it was spinning, or perhaps jettisoned excess fuel to begin deorbiting.
“It is likely either exhaust from a rocket burn to bring the second stage down over the Pacific, or perhaps dumping extra rocket fuel after that burn,” said Rod Boyce, public information officer from the University of Alaska Geophysical Institute. “The spiral pattern indicates that the second stage was spinning when it exhausted the gasses. Any water vapor would turn into ice at these altitudes, and the ice would reflect sunlight where the rocket was, and make a bright cloud visible on the ground in Alaska where the sun was well below the horizon. It looks really bright in those picture, but it is likely just a few pounds of water.”
The Institute’s all-sky camera at Poker Flat Research Range also captured the April 15 spiral on video:
These spirals, while rare, have appeared from other rockets, too. The first one I recall covering for Universe Today was the so-called “Norway Spiral” back in 2009, which came from a failed Russian rocket test flight.
“It’s kind of like noctilucent clouds, but shaped into a Van Gogh-esque Starry Night painting!” Salat explained. “This all happened as it passed over Alaska during a beautiful aurora display, stunning many night-watchers including myself. Trust me, at first, I was totally bewildered! I now know it can be explained with rocket science, but during the experience, I thoroughly enjoyed the mysterious feeling of the unknown.”
Salat added that in his photo you can make out pointer stars of the Big Dipper near the top end of the spiral, and the last two stars point to the North Star to the right. “This really is galactic!” he said.
If you’d like to order a print of this stunning view, check out Salat’s webpage for this shot with more info.
How to watch the Axiom-2 mission depart from the ISS on Tuesday – Digital Trends
This Tuesday, the crew of the second-ever all-private mission to the International Space Station will be returning to Earth. The Axiom 2 or Ax-2 mission launched last week and saw private astronauts Peggy Whitson, John Shoffner, Ali Alqarni, and Rayyanah Barnawi traveling to the ISS on a SpaceX Crew Dragon launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Now, the crew of four will be traveling back to Earth in the same Crew Dragon, and NASA will be livestreaming the departure of the spacecraft from the station. A separate stream will also be available showing the Crew Dragon splashing down off the coast of Florida. We’ve got the details on how to watch both below.
How to watch the mission departure
Coverage of the departure of the Crew Dragon from the ISS will begin at 9 a.m. ET (6 a.m. PT) on Tuesday, May 30. NASA will show a short introduction before the closing of the hatch of the station’s Harmony module at 9:10 a.m. ET (6:10 a.m. PT). There will then be a short break in coverage, which will resume at 10:45 a.m. ET (7:45 a.m. PT) to show the undocking of the Dragon at 11:05 a.m. ET (8:05 a.m. PT), with coverage ending 30 minutes after undocking.
You can watch the livestream of the hatch closing and the undocking on NASA’s YouTube channel, or by using the video embedded near the top of this page.
The crew will then travel back to Earth throughout Tuesday and into Wednesday, May 31. When the Crew Dragon is approaching Earth for splashdown, you’ll be able to tune into a livestream from Axiom Space. That will be available on Axiom’s website, but the company has not yet confirmed the exact time that coverage is expected to begin on Wednesday. You can find the latest updates on Axiom Twitter.
What to expect from the mission departure
The Ax-2 crew will have spent 10 days in space before heading home, and they will be bringing around 300 pounds of cargo back with them. The mission is notable for including the first two astronauts from Saudi Arabia, Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi, as well as famous American astronaut Peggy Whitson who has spent more days in space than any other American or any other woman.
Axiom Space launched its first private mission to the ISS in April last year, with a third mission planned for November this year and a fourth planned for 2024.
NASA's New Horizons Spacecraft Captures ''Heart-Shaped'' Glacier On Pluto's Surface – NDTV
Space agency NASA routinely captures stunning images of our universe, leaving space lovers mesmerized. On Sunday, NASA shared a stunning image on Instagram taken by its New Horizons spacecraft showing a heart-shaped glacier on Pluto’s surface. The heart-shaped region is known unofficially as Tombaugh Regio and is made of nitrogen and methane.
The image was captioned as ”Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Our New Horizons spacecraft captured this heart-shaped glacier. It lies on Pluto’s surface, which also features mountains, cliffs, valleys, craters, and plains, thought to be made of methane and nitrogen ice ”
See the image here:
It described the image as ”Pluto’s surface is marked with cracks and craters in shades of brown. The partially visible heart appears in the lower right of the small world, which is surrounded by black space.”
New Horizons launched in January 2006 and reached Pluto in July 2015, flying within 7,800 miles of its surface, and becoming the first probe to fly by Pluto and its moons. The far-traveling spacecraft also visited a distant Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule (2014 MU69) in January 2019.
Instagram users loved the picture and shared a variety of comments. One user wrote, ”Wouahh what a great capture, thanks to New Horizon spacecraft.” Another commented, ”For me, Pluto will always be a planet.”
A third said, ”Why is Pluto, not a plane? it literally has a heart!” A fourth added, ”Being afar doesn’t mean you aren’t part of the family.”
Pluto was once considered the ninth planet in the solar system, however, it was demoted in 2006 and reclassified as a dwarf planet. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) downgraded the status of Pluto to that of a dwarf planet because it did not meet the three criteria the IAU uses to define a full-sized planet.
Pluto is slightly over 1,400 miles (2250 km) wide or about half the breadth of the United States or two-thirds the width of the Moon. With its average temperature of -387F (-232C) – Pluto’s surface is coated in ice made of water, methane, and nitrogen and is believed to have a rocky core and possibly a deep ocean.
This Week @NASA: Private Astronaut Mission, Autonomous Snake-Like Robot Explorer, TROPICS Launch – SciTechDaily
The second all-private astronaut mission to the space station …
Completing the set of tiny severe weather trackers …
And a robotic explorer – with a twist …
A few of the stories to tell you about – This Week at <span class="glossaryLink" aria-describedby="tt" data-cmtooltip="
” data-gt-translate-attributes=”["attribute":"data-cmtooltip", "format":"html"]”>NASA!
Second Private Astronaut Mission to the Space Station
On May 21, a <span class="glossaryLink" aria-describedby="tt" data-cmtooltip="
” data-gt-translate-attributes=”["attribute":"data-cmtooltip", "format":"html"]”>SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Axiom Mission 2, the second all private astronaut mission to the International Space Station.
The four-person crew, commanded by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, is scheduled to spend several days conducting research, outreach, and commercial activities on the space station.
Final Pair of Storm-Observing CubeSats Launched
The final two CubeSats for NASA’s TROPICS mission launched from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand on May 26. The small satellites will join two other identical spacecraft that launched to orbit earlier this month.
All four will fly, as a constellation, in a unique low Earth orbit that will allow them to observe tropical cyclones, including hurricanes and typhoons, more often than what is possible with
current weather satellites.
Autonomous Snake-Like Robotic Explorer
A team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is creating and testing a snake-like robot called EELS, short for Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor. The self-propelled, autonomous robot is
being developed to go where other robots can’t go.
Although it was inspired by a desire to look for signs of life in the sub-surface ocean on <span class="glossaryLink" aria-describedby="tt" data-cmtooltip="
” data-gt-translate-attributes=”["attribute":"data-cmtooltip", "format":"html"]”>Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus, EELS is not currently part of any NASA mission.
Artemis Rocket Engine Test Series Continues
On May 23, NASA’s Stennis Space Center conducted a hot fire test of an RS-25 rocket engine. It was the eighth hot fire of the current 12-test series to certify production of new RS-25s.
Four of the engines will help power NASA’s Space Launch System rocket on future Artemis missions to the Moon.
That’s what’s up this week @NASA.
Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom – Crisis at Hyrule Castle Walkthrough – GameRant
Watch Moody's Analytics' Ell on Asia Economy – Bloomberg
Japan stocks jump 2%, Asia markets rise after U.S. reaches tentative debt ceiling deal – CNBC
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Search for life on Mars accelerates as new bodies of water found below planet’s surface
Art21 hours ago
The best AI art generators in May 2023
Art15 hours ago
Soaring value of Maud Lewis works invites fraud, art experts say – CBC.ca
Health14 hours ago
3 tick-borne diseases, mpox added to list of notifiable diseases, illnesses in N.S. – CBC.ca
Tech15 hours ago
Asmongold claims he was "kicked out" by Redfall's developers after he called the game a "boring looter-shooter with no imagination" – Sportskeeda
Art15 hours ago
Couple May Need to Pay $250,000 to Have Banksy Mural Removed from Their Home – ARTnews
Real eState15 hours ago
Downtown real estate and commercial buildings are struggling. Why won't landlords lower the rent? – Slate
Health13 hours ago
Meet Dr. Medhi Aloosh, Windsor and Essex County's new medical officer of health – CBC.ca
Art15 hours ago
Newmarket's Riverwalk Commons filled with art for Night Market – NewmarketToday.ca