For the past few months, a strange phenomenon has regularly illuminated our sky, sometimes up to five times a month. These are red, almost spherical auroras that are visible to the naked eye for about ten minutes. Is it a new natural phenomenon? No. Astronomers explain that SpaceX is responsible for providing the spectacle today.
Holes in Our Ionosphere Causing Red Auroras
To understand, it is necessary to know that around our Earth, there is an envelope that scientists call the ionosphere. It is characterized by a partial ionization of the gases present in it. However, the holes—the disappearance of this ionization—in our ionosphere naturally emit red light.
Red Auroras Triggered by SpaceX Rockets
But how can holes appear in our ionosphere? When the engines of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket burn, even if only for 2 seconds to bring a stage back to the ocean, about 90 minutes after launch, approximately 180 kilograms of exhaust gases are released. Mostly water and carbon dioxide (CO2). All this occurs at an altitude of about 300 kilometers, enough to significantly puncture the top of our ionosphere.
This is an opportunity for those studying how space traffic specifically affects our ionosphere. However, astronomers, in a broader sense, are already concerned that these red auroras could have unfavorable consequences for the quality of their observations.