The ghostly flying “hot tub” that appeared over Hawaii could be leftover SpaceX rocket fuel

  • On January 18th, a mysterious blue “hot tub” was sighted in the Hawaiian night sky.
  • A Japanese telescope took pictures of the anomaly after launching a SpaceX navigation satellite.

A ghostly blue spiral in the sky over Hawaii could be related to a SpaceX satellite launch.

The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan spotted the mysterious spiral on January 18 through his Subaru telescopeshortly after SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a large military satellite for the US Space Force.

Ichi Tanaka, a researcher at the Subaru telescope, was busy with other work that night and didn’t notice an otherworldly shape forming in the telescope’s field of view, he told The Guardian. Then someone sent him a screenshot from the YouTube live stream.

“When I opened Slack I saw exactly that and it was a breathtaking event for me,” Tanaka told The Guardian.

On Twitter, the observatory shared an image of the cosmic whirlpool and posted the following video of the spiraling formation flying over Mauna Kea volcano and then dissipating.

“The Subaru-Asahi Star Camera captured a mysterious flying spiral over Maunakea, Hawaii,” the Subaru Telescope said on Twitter Jan. 19. “The spiral appears to be related to the launch of a new satellite by the SpaceX company.”

The launch took place in Cape Canaveral, Florida, but satellite tracker Scott Tilley answered to the tweet stating that the spiral’s position over Hawaii exactly matched the position of the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage at the time.

This is the part of the rocket that pushes its passenger satellite all the way into Earth orbit after the rocket engine (first stage) separates and falls back to Earth., which tracks observations of such phenomena, speculated that the mysterious spiral came from this Falcon 9’s first stage dumping fuel as it descended.

The ghostly flying
SpaceX launches a Falcon 9 rocket with two television satellites in Cape Canaveral, Florida.Michael Weekes Jr./Reuters

This isn’t the first time a spiral has been sighted in the sky following a SpaceX launch. After a launch from Florida in June 2022, a similar spiral was seen over Queenstown, New Zealand, the Washington Post reported.

These SpaceX spirals are becoming “commonplace” over the Pacific, according to, as the company ramps up the pace of Falcon 9 launches.

Falcon 9 rockets have also created other colorful and ethereal formations in the sky. The launch that could have created the New Zealand spiral could also have created a “smoke ring” formation in the sky over the central US, according to

The SpaceX rocket is also known for the “space jellyfish” it often paints across the sky as it climbs through the atmosphere.