June 8, 2010
UFO Sighting In Australia Was Falcon 9
According to Australian media reports, the spiral that flew over Australia early Saturday and prompted a flood of UFO reports to local news stations was likely the remnants of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.
The Australia Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) said the bright sky spiral appeared before sunrise on Saturday over New South Wales, Queensland and the Australia Capital Territory (ACT).
James Butcher of Canberra told ABC that the spiral light appeared to have a yellow hue.
According to ABC, another skywatcher said the object looked like a "huge revolving moon."
However, despite claims, the new Falcon 9 rocket launched by SpaceX created the phenomenon. The Space Exploration Technologies company is a California-based spaceflight company led by millionaire PayPal co-founder Elon Musk.
"I heard people in Australia thought UFOs were visiting :)," SpaceX's millionaire founder Elon Musk told SPACE.com in an e-mail. "The venting of propellants, which is done to ensure that an overpressure event doesn't produce orbital debris, created a temporary halo caught the sun at just the right angle for a great view from Australia. I thought the pictures looked really cool."
ABC reported that professional skywatchers quickly suggested that SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket might be the source of the sky spiral.
"The fact that you've got the rotation, the spiral effect, is very reminiscent of the much widely reported sightings from Norway and Russia last year, which both turned out to be a Bulava missile which was being adjusted in its orbit," Geoffrey Whyatt of the Sydney Observatory told ABC. "So possibly a rocket, I would say, having some sort of gyroscopic stability rocket fired on its side."
The Bulava missile spiral occurred in December 2009 and set off a flurry of UFO sighting reports.
The new Falcon 9 took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on a successful test flight Friday afternoon. SpaceX plans to use the rocket to bring unmanned cargo flights to the International Space Station for NASA.
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