'Mysterious' Flying Spiral over Mauna Kea Related to Satellite Launch

A “mysterious” flying spiral spotted by the Subaru Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, early on Wednesday, January 18, could be related to a SpaceX satellite launch earlier in the day, scientists speculated.

Footage captured by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and Asahi Shimbun using the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii shows a small, bright dot among the stars at around 4:21 am local time on January 18.

The dot grows into a spiral, eventually appearing like a “mysterious whirlpool,” according to the Subaru Telescope YouTube account.

The Subaru Telescope said on Twitter that: “The spiral seems to be related to the SpaceX company’s launch of a new satellite.”

SpaceX launched the GPS III Space Vehicle 06 mission from Cape Canaveral at 7:24 am local time (2:24 am Honolulu time) on Wednesday, January 18, the company said.

Space.com reported that similar spirals had been seen following SpaceX launches using the Falcon 9 rocket in other locations, including New Zealand.

Space watchers said the shape appeared as unneeded fuel was vented during the rocket’s descent into the ocean, the report added. Credit: NAOJ & Asahi Shimbun via Storyful

Video transcript