Flying Whirlpool Mystery Solved, was a Dead SpaceX Rocket

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket experienced a death spiral in its upper stage on Sunday, which created a swirling whirlpool that was spotted in the sky over Hawaii

The rotating mass was dubbed as “flying whirlpool” by the staff at the Subaru-Asahi Star Camera, which operates the Subaru Telescope on dormant volcano Mauna Kea and captured its passage through the sky.

Flying Whirlpool Mystery Solved, was a Dead SpaceX Rocket
Image: Subaru Telescope Video Screenshot

Above Image is a Screenshot taken by the Subaru Telescope of a Falcon 9 upper stage in a death spiral, forming a whirlpool-like image over Hawaii. While the whirling thing appears to be a shockingly close spiral galaxy flying through space past the Earth, it is in fact much closer.

The whirlpool was discovered only hours after Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) classified satellite payload as part of the NRO Launch 85 (NROL-85) mission. This implies the spiral is the result of the initial launch.

The two stages of the SpaceX rocket separated about 2.5 minutes after liftoff, with the first stage returning to Earth and landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Landing Zone 4 complex five and a half minutes after separation, according on

The upper stage, which unlike the lower stage that successfully performed a vertical touch down at Vandenberg is not built to be reused, falls back into the atmosphere and burns up as part of the Falcon 9’s, dubbed “flying whirlpool”.

What exactly caused the “Flying Whirlpool” phenomenon?

Marco Langbroek, a researcher at the Astronomy Department of Leiden University told Newsweek: “The video shows the upper stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket venting left-over rocket fuel just before reentering into the atmosphere over a safe area in the

“The vented rocket fuel droplets form a cloud in space that is illuminated by
sunlight and hence becomes visible as a glowing cloud.”

“You don’t want that to happen, certainly not while the rocket stage is still in space, as it can create space debris”, he added.

“Also, such an explosion could mean that fragments of the rocket stage could come down too early, not over the safe area you designated for that. That is obviously something you want to avoid.”

This isn’t the first time a rocket has generated a perplexing spiral in the night sky over Earth. In January of this year, another SpaceX rocket, which was launching from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, created a fiery spiral in Oklahoma, according to CBS News.

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