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Mysterious ‘Dr Strange’-Style Spiral Over The Pacific Identified

by : Daniel Richardson on : 23 Jun 2021 15:12
Mysterious 'Dr Strange'-Style Spiral Over The Pacific IdentifiedAssociation Calédonienne d'Astronomie/Facebook/Marvel

A mysterious spiral that was spotted over the Pacific has now been identified, and it has an interesting origin.

Seeing a spiral in the sky may seem like a warning about the end of days or the beginning of a Marvel movie, but they often have logical causes. The large spiral was seen over the northwest Pacific on June 8, and people from the likes of New Caledonia, Tokelau, Samoa and Fiji were mystified by its appearance.

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On the back of this mystery, American astronomer Jonathan McDowell began to research the phenomenon.

Check out the video of the spiral:

After some studying, it has been revealed that a Chinese rocket was responsible for the oddity in the sky. The rocket has been identified as a Long March 2C by McDowell.

The astronomer told MailOnline exactly what’s happening in the footage:

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The spiral happens when the rocket is tumbling end over end while venting its fuel – it’s then exactly like a garden sprinkler.

Except that because it is in space the spiral stays perfect over hundreds of miles because there is no air to mess up the shape – that’s why it looks surprising to us, we’re not used to seeing such perfect geometries because on Earth there’s always wind or friction to distort things.

To find out what was happening in the sky, McDowell investigated rockets that were launched at the time. It turned out the rocket had been launched in China just 15 minutes before the spiral appeared. The US space force then tracked the rocket when it reached orbit and McDowell was able to check this information and prove the rocket was the cause of the spiral.

spiral in the sky (PA Images)PA Images

McDowell said:

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I was then able to use standard orbit math to plot the trajectory – latitude and longitude of the rocket versus time – and confirmed that the track passed directly over New Caledonia and Vanuatu (where the spiral was seen), and not only that, it passed over those places within a couple of minutes of when the reports said the spiral was seen (and the reports were only accurate to a few minutes anyway).

Once McDowell confirmed the reason for the spiral, he contacted Facebook pages like Association Calédonienne d’Astronomie, who had collated the sightings of the public and discussed what it could be.

It seems that no Marvel characters were involved, although the sight itself was pretty impressive regardless of its cause.

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Daniel Richardson

After graduating from university, Dan went on to work with a variety of tech startups and media outlets. These included the likes of The Hook, WhatCulture and Game Rant. Eventually, Dan found a home for his journalism at UNILAD.

Topics: Science, China, Marvel, Now, Rocket

Credits

Daily Mail and 1 other
  1. Daily Mail

    Mysterious 'Dr Strange'-style spiral over the southwest Pacific is actually fuel released by China's Long March rocket

  2. Facebook

    Association Calédonienne d'Astronomie