A mysterious spiral formation was spotted in the night sky above a volcano in Hawaii earlier this month, sparking curiosity among observers through a Japanese telescope.
The spectacle, initially spotted by an observatory in Mauna Kea on Jan. 18, first looked like a traveling bright star before it morphed shapes. Some also described it as a glowing, whirlpool-like formation spinning through the night sky.
“The Subaru-Asahi Star Camera captured a mysterious flying spiral,” tweeted the Subaru Telescope, which is mounted in Hawaii, from its English account on Jan. 20. “The spiral seems to be related to the SpaceX company’s launch of a new satellite.”
In the video, the object starts as a small white sphere flying through the night sky. It then widens into a spiral as it travels before fading into a ring shape and disappearing.
According to the telescope’s YouTube channel, a live stream viewer first noticed the event and brought it to the staff’s attention. The live stream is jointly run by the telescope and Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper company.
The rare sighting is believed to be connected to the launch of a satellite by Musk’s Space X.
Earlier that same day, SpaceX launched a global positioning satellite into orbit from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, The Washington Post reported. The spiral was most likely comprised of frozen rocket fuel ejected during the SpaceX launch, according to LiveScience.
Similar spirals have previously been reported after other SpaceX launches. In June, one was photographed hovering above Queenstown, New Zealand, on the same day a Falcon 9 was launched into the air from the same Florida location.
Similarly, a glowing swirl was photographed by the Subaru Telescope above Hawaii in April after a Falcon 9 rocket launched a satellite into orbit.
SpaceX and the Subaru Telescope did not immediately respond to requests for comment.