A pair of spectacular images of an ethereal spiral in the night sky appeared on January 8, 2018. But what’s still uncertain is what created this brilliant spiral. It appeared a few hours after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the Zuma satellite on a mystery mission for the U.S. government. Some media report that the Northrop Grumman-built Zuma spacecraft may have failed after it launched into orbit. SpaceX representatives have said their Falcon 9 rocket performed as expected during the Zuma launch. A Northrop Grumman representative said the company cannot comment on the mission due to its classified nature.
This first photo was taken by Dutch pilot Peter Horstink at 35,000 feet (11,000 meters) above the Earth’s surface near the city of Khartoum, Sudan. The picture shows a dazzling aerial view of the greenish-blue spiral.
The second picture, also from Sudan, shows a view of the spiral from the ground.
Langbroek said both photos show what appears to be a normal venting of excess fuel by the upper stage of the SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket after separating from its payload. Such venting procedures are typical after launches, done to avoid explosions after spacecraft separation.
The mission was SpaceX’s first launch of 2018 and the company’s third classified launch for the U.S. government. In May 2017, SpaceX launched a classified spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, following that in September with the launch of an X-37B robotic space plane on a secret mission for the U.S. Air Force. The X-37B space plane is still in orbit on its classified OTV-5 mission.
For me it’s clear, what about you?