Author Topic: Spiral "UFO"s  (Read 4359 times)

Offline Sparky

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Spiral "UFO"s
« on: 06/07/2010 02:31 AM »
With the recent siting of the Falcon 9 upper stage over Australia being seen as a large spiral in the sky, similar to what was seen over Norway following a Russian Bulava launch, I was wondering if this phenomenon had been seen previously, on older launches, or if we've had the luck to see these only more recently due to chance?
« Last Edit: 06/07/2010 02:56 AM by Sparky »

Offline spacedive

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Re: Spiral "UFO"s
« Reply #1 on: 06/07/2010 03:43 AM »
I know bugger all about the history of rockets by comparison with most here, so have no idea how common they actually are.

The reasons we're seeing so much of them are:
1. The cynical media
2. virulence of the ufo meme
3. personal, cheap, video cameras

I'd guess that there are also more launches per annum than, say, 20-30 years ago. I can well imagine being wrong on that point though. (and would appreciate some input on that point if anyone else knows for sure)

Somebody here said that SpaceX would do well out of this publicity. I hope so! (and space focused technology in general, with luck)

Unfortuantely, converting that publicity is not as easy as saying "Its not a ufo, its a rocket." Many people have a lot of emotional investment in the ufo idea and will go to great lengths to defend it.

I tried the above approach on youtube, this was the (hilarious) result:

Quote from: youtube comments
could be a hologram, i heard they have hologram technolgay that can do this, even project bigger things too
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LOL, rocket. A rocket standing still in the sky & spinning out of control. All the carvings of spirals on ancient rocks. Did rockets do those also? I don't believe NASA was around then.
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rocket nonsense will be banned
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If you consider the gulf oil spill to equal the 2nd trumpet in revelations, (1/3 of the sea becomes blood) the third trumpet is a comet to hit earth that will poison a third of the fresh drinking water.. Very weird. No it cant be a rocket. Rockets dont do this, they never have before
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this was done on a computer guys.
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Yeah.. A rocket that suddenly stops spinning out of nothing and maintains a static spiral floating in the sky is really scientific and logical...

Funny as all that is, most people fall prey to similar delusions on a much smaller scale and about far more mundane matters. You can see it in the arguments here on the NSF forums sometimes.

For me, everyday is a struggle to avoid making similar mistakes! Getting better slowly.
« Last Edit: 06/07/2010 03:44 AM by spacedive »

Offline Sparky

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Re: Spiral "UFO"s
« Reply #2 on: 06/07/2010 03:53 AM »
LOL! Those comments are the exact reason I asked!

I understand why there would be more of this phenomenon over time, it just seems odd to have never had any and suddenly get 3 or 4 within a year. Probably well within statistical probability, but I was hoping that there might be a documented case of this 30 years ago or so.

Just a thought: Speaking of publicity, it would be neat if a someone built a satellite that fired its thrusters in such a way to write ads across the early evening sky!

Offline spacedive

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Re: Spiral "UFO"s
« Reply #3 on: 06/07/2010 04:51 AM »
I'm sure there would be examples. Seek and ye shall find.. May be hard to dig them up on account of people not connecting factual knowledge with distant observations.

I seem to recall Coke had considered putting a billboard in space!

Offline shuttlelegs

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Re: Spiral "UFO"s
« Reply #4 on: 06/07/2010 12:08 PM »
With the recent siting of the Falcon 9 upper stage over Australia being seen as a large spiral in the sky, similar to what was seen over Norway following a Russian Bulava launch, I was wondering if this phenomenon had been seen previously, on older launches, or if we've had the luck to see these only more recently due to chance?
I believe when Apollo 13 oxygen tank explode it was being tracked by telescopes and they saw the cloud of gas escaping and expanding from the service module. It was not visible by the naked eye.

Offline sandrot

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Re: Spiral "UFO"s
« Reply #5 on: 06/07/2010 12:40 PM »
The reasons we're seeing so much of them are:
1. The cynical media
2. virulence of the ufo meme
3. personal, cheap, video cameras

Yet we're unable to nail a real UFO!
"Paper planes do fly much better than paper spacecrafts."

Offline Sparky

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Re: Spiral "UFO"s
« Reply #6 on: 06/08/2010 02:27 AM »
The reasons we're seeing so much of them are:
1. The cynical media
2. virulence of the ufo meme
3. personal, cheap, video cameras

Yet we're unable to nail a real UFO!

Sure we do! If I throw a rock, and my neighbor sees it and doesn't know what it is, it qualifies as a UFO. So long as there are people unfamiliar with the sky, there will always be UFOs...

Offline William Graham

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Re: Spiral "UFO"s
« Reply #7 on: 06/08/2010 08:32 AM »
I'd guess that there are also more launches per annum than, say, 20-30 years ago. I can well imagine being wrong on that point though. (and would appreciate some input on that point if anyone else knows for sure)

Orbital launch rates peaked in 1969 and have been trending downwards since. They hit a 42-year low in 2004, and have since started to show signs of recovery, however it remains to be seen if this is just temporary.

Looking back 20-30 years, and using last year as a comparison; there were 110 launches (4 of which failed to orbit) in 1979, 102 launches (1 of which failed to orbit) in 1989, and 78 launches (3 of which failed to orbit) in 2009.

Offline Garrett

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Re: Spiral "UFO"s
« Reply #8 on: 06/08/2010 09:56 AM »
With the recent siting of the Falcon 9 upper stage over Australia being seen as a large spiral in the sky, similar to what was seen over Norway following a Russian Bulava launch, I was wondering if this phenomenon had been seen previously, on older launches, or if we've had the luck to see these only more recently due to chance?

Cameras on every mobile phone did not exist more than 5 years ago. Neither was YouTube very popular in the good aul' days (19.8 kbits/s is not that great for streaming videos ;) ). Probably partly explains why we're not so aware of previous similar events.
« Last Edit: 06/08/2010 10:16 AM by Garrett »
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Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: Spiral "UFO"s
« Reply #9 on: 06/08/2010 12:14 PM »
I don't know why you're ridiculing those FaceToob comments above.  They seemed reasonably sensible to me.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline Garrett

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Re: Spiral "UFO"s
« Reply #10 on: 06/08/2010 12:32 PM »
I don't know why you're ridiculing those FaceToob comments above.  They seemed reasonably sensible to me.
;D
Yes, the word "reasonably" can probably be defined so as to give large margins of error to the definition of "sensible"  :P
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Offline spacedive

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Re: Spiral "UFO"s
« Reply #11 on: 06/08/2010 12:56 PM »
I'd guess that there are also more launches per annum than, say, 20-30 years ago. I can well imagine being wrong on that point though. (and would appreciate some input on that point if anyone else knows for sure)

Orbital launch rates peaked in 1969 and have been trending downwards since. They hit a 42-year low in 2004, and have since started to show signs of recovery, however it remains to be seen if this is just temporary.

Looking back 20-30 years, and using last year as a comparison; there were 110 launches (4 of which failed to orbit) in 1979, 102 launches (1 of which failed to orbit) in 1989, and 78 launches (3 of which failed to orbit) in 2009.


Thats very interesting.. I wonder how this compares with, say, UFO report/sighting rates over the same timeframe? (when DID the popular-sense UFO concept really take off?)

Offline Sparky

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Re: Spiral "UFO"s
« Reply #12 on: 06/08/2010 04:28 PM »
Well, to partially answer my own question, it turns out that these have been happening for a while, just none of them as popular as the recent ones:



I kept hearing about one in China, so when I tried finding out more, it turns out it happened in 1988.

Offline Garrett

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Re: Spiral "UFO"s
« Reply #13 on: 06/08/2010 04:29 PM »
...when DID the popular-sense UFO concept really take off?
Probably ever since the Montgolfière brothers and the Wright brothers started getting flying objects into the air  ::)

Seriously though, it would be great to find some older footage/accounts of spirals in the sky due to spinning rockets. The Falcon 9 was launched (around 3pm) such that it reached Oz in the early hours of their morning, and being at high altitude, its thruster plumes caught the dawn rays of the Sun. I think I recall that the Norway Spiral was a case of the plumes catching the setting Sun rays.

There must be others. But they're probably buried in foreign newspaper microfilm archives.

EDIT: This was my 100th post. I'll have a celebratory beer now.
« Last Edit: 06/08/2010 05:54 PM by Garrett »
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Offline neilh

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Re: Spiral "UFO"s
« Reply #14 on: 06/08/2010 10:14 PM »
Not exactly a spiral, but there were the "bubbling UFOs" from the cryogenic rotation/settling/venting tests with the Atlas Centaur:

http://selenianboondocks.com/2009/10/av-017-bubbling-ufos-and-centrifugal-settling/
http://www.ulalaunch.com/site/docs/publications/ULA-Innovation-March-2010.pdf
Someone is wrong on the Internet.
http://xkcd.com/386/

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