BY EDDIE KIM – It looks like something you would expect out of a late-night science fiction movie: the still darkness of a night sky, broken by a stunning, rapidly expanding bubble of white light. It seems to vanish as quickly as it starts.
Cue the opening of an intergalactic portal – complete with dramatic music! – with humanity’s future at stake.
Extraterrestrial fantasies aside, the astonishing video footage was caught by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) and Subaru Telescope observatories at Mauna Kea on June 22 at around 3:35 AM. The video has been a subject of intense curiosity for astronomers and Sci-Fi geeks alike.
Even Kanoa Withington, the software manager at CFHT, says the footage stumped him and the rest of the staff when it was first noticed.
“We thought it some sort of weird meteorological phenomenon at first, but couldn’t really figure it out. It was moving so fast, it didn’t seem to be anything physical,” Withington said.
Eventually, CFHT released the footage to the internet community in an attempt to brainstorm possible reasons for the phenomenon. According to several sources including online astronomy forums, it is likely that the space bubble was caused by a third-stage release of exhaust and fuel away from a Minuteman III Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), which had been fired a few minutes before observation from Vandenburg Air Force Base, California.
Ironically, while the CFHT and Subaru Telescopes are noted for their cutting-edge technology and incredible optical ability, it was a humble webcam placed on the outside of the CFHT facility that captured the phenomenon. And as far as observing strange events in the sky goes, Withington noted with a chuckle that this was a highlight for the facility.
“We don’t really see as much unexplainable stuff as people would imagine,” he said. “We’re usually able to figure out what we’re looking at. Normally, strange footage is a result of optics and cameras being weird. That wasn’t the case here.”
And while there may be a consensus about why the mystical-looking halo occurred, there are still questions about the details of the phenomenon, including the unusually intense brightness of the missile exhaust. Even for experts, the wonderment of the event hasn’t worn off quite yet.
“This is definitely the strangest thing I’ve ever seen,” Withington said. “I’m still amazed.”