SpaceX could have turned the galaxy an eerie shade of red during its latest launch, a sight made all of the weirder in that it was invisible to the naked eye.
In response to the Washington Post, photographers in Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee and North Carolina attempted to get shots of the Milky Way but had their images photobombed by a swelling red streak, like a cloud of gas.
It’s possible a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Florida could have generated the strange glowing cloud on Sunday morning.
“At first I assumed possibly a skinny cloud but not the case,” Maryland photographer told the Post. “After research, I got here across an article that said SpaceX Falcon 9 was launched at 12.27am.”
Boston University physicist Carlos Martinis told the Post that the rocket’s exhaust could have interacted with positive oxygen ions present within the atmosphere at 68 to 310 miles altitude to generate the red glow. The plume of exhaust can diffuse through the upper atmosphere, making a spreading cloud of red.
Nevertheless, Tamitha Skov, an area weather expert interviewed by the newspaper, suggested that what photographers might even have captured was a faint, “sub-visual” aurora borealis, noting there was lively solar wind radiation hitting Earth’s magnetic field on the time of the photographers’ sightings.
“A student of mine saw the SpaceX rocket launch at an analogous time and even within the camera, the scattered light from the rocket exhaust remained a localised white plume,” she told the Post, “so I actually don’t think the above phenomenon is a results of the SpaceX launch, but simply one other dazzling reminder of how far south aurora really does occur, if we’re willing to do what it takes to search for it.”