(ORDO NEWS) — In the early hours of Sunday morning, patient nighttime photographers captured a snapshot of an “otherworldly” red glow sweeping across the galaxy. They suspect that the culprit was a SpaceX rocket launched just minutes earlier in Florida.
Photographer David S. Johnston captured the red sky while taking a long exposure shot of the Milky Way at 12:30 am on June 19 in Bear Rocks, West Virginia, USA.
The red color in the sky was not visible to the naked eye, but after Johnston looked at his photographs again, it became clear that the camera had captured something special.
“I had no idea what it was and it scared me a little,” Johnston wrote.
“I showed the pictures to some people this morning and a friend, perhaps jokingly, suggested that it could have been a rocket launch.
But I looked into it, and sure enough, SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 from Florida that morning, just minutes before the red color appeared,” he added.
Johnston is not alone in his speculation. Similar shots have been taken in Maryland, North Carolina, and elsewhere, and many other photographers have come to the same conclusion. Some scientists also agree that this could be the result of a SpaceX rocket launch.
Carlos Martinis of the Center for Space Physics at Boston University explained to The Washington Post that the red glow could be due to the Falcon 9’s second-stage engine burning, which typically starts about three minutes after liftoff at altitude, when positive oxygen ions are present in the atmosphere.
Fueled by the intense combustion of the rocket engine, oxygen ions combine with other environmental molecules to form O2+, N2+, and NO+ molecular ions, which react with electrons to produce light.
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