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A Flying Spiral over Maunakea

February 1, 2023
Last updated: February 15, 2023

In the early morning of January 18, 2023, Hawai`i Standard Time, the Subaru-Asahi Star Camera captured a mysterious flying spiral over Maunakea, Hawai`i. The spiral seems to have been related to the SpaceX company's launch of a new satellite.

Video: The spiral over Maunakea captured with the Subaru-Asahi Star Camera on January 18, 2023. This video can be seen on SubaruTel_StarCamAdmin (@subarutel_starcamadmin), a Subaru Telescope affiliated YouTube Channel. (Credit: NAOJ & Asahi Shimbun)

The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and The Asahi Shimbun Company installed an ultra-high sensitivity camera on the Summit Facility of the Subaru Telescope to livestream the view from the summit region of Maunakea 24/7.

We provide the livestream on the Asahi Shimbun Astro LIVE YouTube channel to show the spectacular landscapes at an altitude of about 4,200 meters day and night. Some enthusiastic viewers spotted a spiral appearing in the eastern sky over Maunakea on January 18, 2023. Through chat discussions and social media, the spiral was soon found to be related to the satellite orbital deployment operations of a new satellite launched earlier that day by the Space X company.

The spiral was probably bright enough to see with the human eye, shining by reflecting the sunlight; however, the camera captured it very clearly with higher sensitivity. In addition, the dark sky of Maunakea enhanced the spiral’s detailed structure.

This is the second time the Subaru-Asahi Star Camera has captured this kind of mysterious spiral. The first one was recorded in the early morning on April 17, 2022.

The Subaru Telescope is an 8.2-meter optical-infrared telescope near the summit of Maunakea, Hawai`i, operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), National Institutes of Natural Sciences.

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