A Celestial Spectacle: Unraveling the Enigmatic SpaceX Spirals

A Celestial Spectacle: Unraveling the Enigmatic SpaceX SpiralsAs avid stargazers, we've all witnessed the breathtaking beauty of the aurora borealis, a celestial dance of vibrant colors painting the night sky. But last week, our nightly show was interrupted by an equally mesmerizing spectacle – a massive swirling cloud of pure white light.

Dying SpaceX rocket creates glowing, galaxy-like spiral in the ...

The Birth of a Cosmic Vortex

This ethereal display, dubbed a "SpaceX spiral," is a rare phenomenon caused by a cloud of frozen fuel expelled into space during a SpaceX rocket launch. As the fuel freezes in the vacuum, it forms tiny crystals that spread out in a spiral pattern, reflecting sunlight back to Earth.

Scientists attribute the recent spiral to the Falcon 9 rocket launched on March 4th from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. After successfully deploying 53 satellites, the rocket's second stage began its controlled descent into the Arctic's Barents Sea. During this process, the remaining fuel was jettisoned into space, giving birth to the mesmerizing whirlpool of light.

A Common Sight in Our Future Skies

SpaceX spirals, while rare, are expected to become a more frequent occurrence as commercial space travel and satellite launches increase. In recent years, spirals have been observed several times, including one over Norway and a stunning blue spiral in April 2023.

The conditions for a visible spiral depend on factors such as the rocket's spin rate, time of day, and orientation relative to Earth and the sun. Astrophotographer Ian Staiger, who correctly predicted the appearance of the most recent spiral, emphasizes that these spirals are not a common sight after every launch.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes SpaceX spirals?
    SpaceX spirals are formed when frozen fuel from a rocket is expelled into space, creating a cloud of crystals that reflect sunlight in a spiral pattern.
  • How often do SpaceX spirals occur?
    SpaceX spirals are relatively rare, but they are becoming more common as space launches increase.
  • How long do SpaceX spirals last?
    The spirals typically last for around 10 minutes before dissipating.
  • Can SpaceX spirals be seen from anywhere on Earth?
    SpaceX spirals are usually visible only in the Arctic or Antarctic regions, where conditions for their formation and visibility are most favorable.

Tips for Observing SpaceX Spirals

  • Check space launch schedules. Monitor the dates and times of upcoming SpaceX launches to increase your chances of witnessing a spiral.
  • Use space tracking apps. Download apps like SkySafari or Spacewalk to track the rocket's path and predict the location of potential spirals.
  • Stay away from light pollution. Find a dark, open area with minimal light pollution to enhance your visibility.
  • Allow your eyes to adjust. Give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness before looking up; this will improve your ability to detect faint light.


SpaceX spirals are a fascinating display of human ingenuity and the wonders of our universe. As commercial space travel expands, we can expect these celestial spectacles to become a more common sight. Whether you're a seasoned stargazer or a curious novice, keep an eye out for these ethereal vortices – they're a reminder that the night sky holds endless surprises.