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People Were Stumped by a ‘Mysterious Spiral’ That Appeared in the Night Sky

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Jun 22, 2022

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Image Credit: Twitter

A non-blinking, non-twinkling enormous white spiral was spotted traversing across New Zealand’s night sky recently — leaving people perplexed in its wake. Where did it come from? And more importantly, what was it?

“It looked like an enormous spiral galaxy, just hanging there in the sky, and slowly just drifting across… Quite an eerie feeling,” said Alasdair Burns from Stewart Island, who witnessed the celestial anomaly first-hand and clicked pictures. He was immediately flooded with requests from media personnel for access to the latter. Burns had, reportedly, gone out to investigate after a friend texted him to go look up at the sky. “We quickly banged on the doors of all our neighbors to get them out as well. And so there were about five of us, all out on our shared veranda looking up and just kind of, well, freaking out just a little bit,” he added.

As with any bizarre, inexplicable phenomenon that catches the attention of netizens worldwide, the spiral inspired many conspiracy theories online — with people unleashing their inner Sherlock Holmes, Feluda, Phryne Fisher, Nancy Drew, what have you!

Naturally, fans of Loki and Multiverse of Madness among them, immediately found themselves wondering whether the spiral was, basically, a wormhole that opened to another galaxy. One person guesstimated, “Premonition from our orbital black hole!” Yet others — including fans of Doctor Strange, of course — were quick to speculate about the spiral being a portal, perhaps, to a newer, better world. A Twitter user from NZ wrote, “Think my kids summoned a portal!”

And as with any extraordinary, peculiar phenomenon up in the sky, extra-terrestrial involvement was obviously suspected. “Aliens at it again,” commented one stargazer. But before alien-enthusiasts could make up their minds about whether the spiral would lead to visits from friendly aliens like Jaadoo or E.T., or end up in an Independence Day-esque disaster, a saner, more plausible resolution of the mystery emerged.


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According to scientists, the mystery literally was all smoke. They surmised that the spiral was nothing but plumes from a rocket — possibly one of SpaceX’s — that was lit up by the rays of the Sun.

Calling the phenomenon “weird but easily explained,” Richard Easther, a physicist at Auckland University in NZ, explained, “When the propellant is ejected out the back [of a rocket], you have what’s essentially water and carbon dioxide — that briefly forms a cloud in space that’s illuminated by the [S]un.” To put it simply, a SpaceX rocket left behind a spiral of smoke in the night sky — which, then, inspired fantasies on the internet.

However, not everything about this explanation for the spiral is as uninspiring and insipid as the explanation prima facie suggests. Speaking to The Guardian, Esther added how things almost fell into the right place at the right time for the spiral to appear the way it did, saying, “The geometry of the satellite’s orbit and also the way that we’re sitting relative to the sun — that combination of things was just right to produce these completely wacky-looking clouds.”

But well, it was, after all, much ado about nothing — or, at least, nothing as cool as any of the conspiracy theories netizens had come up with. Perhaps, the fantasies of portals opening up to less corrupt, less ravaged worlds would have to be restricted to books and the celluloid for now.

With our hearts thus broken, there’s one tweet that’s currently resonating, “It’s always Elon Musk’s fault!”

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Written By Devrupa Rakshit

Devrupa Rakshit is an Associate Editor at The Swaddle. She is a lawyer by education, a poet by accident, and a painter by shaukh. She has her own podcast called #DateNightsWithD on Spotify. You can find her on Instagram @devruparakshit.

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