Norwegian Spiral

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The titular spiral
The woo is out there
Icon ufology.svg
Aliens did it...
...and ran away

The Norwegian Spiral[note 1] was a spectacular aerial phenomenon seen in the night sky from (parts of) Norway and Sweden on 9 December 2009. It was most probably caused by a test launch of a Russian ICBM that failed spectacularly (or did it?). The term "Norwegian Spiral" has also been adopted to refer to any real image which looks so spectacular that it is assumed to be photoshopped, computer generated, or faked in some fashion.

As it looked really weird, and the Russians didn't admit their responsibility immediately, the Internet was abuzz with conspiracy theories about it. It has been called:

In one of his bizarre mashes of lucidity and nuttiness, Richard Hoagland believes that, yes, it was a ballistic missile test, but it was shot down with a torsion field weapon. By Space Nazis. To intimidate Obama into canceling the US human spaceflight program, ... "imprisoning" Humanity on Earth ...."[1]

Similar phenomena[edit]

2010 Soyuz/Progress launch[edit]

On 30 June 2010, a "comet" could be seen in the skies over Central Asia, including Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek.[2] This time there was no swirl, but the culprit was again the backlit plume of a rocket, a Russian Soyuz rocket launching a Progress cargo ship towards the International Space Station.[3] Video from the event were later "reused" for the "Chinese UFO wave" in July the same year.[4]

Australian Spiral[edit]

The fires of paranoia were rekindled when a similar "spiral" appeared in the skies over eastern Australia in the early morning of 5 June 2011. Again, the reason was rocket propellant venting from a spinning rocket, lit by the sun at high altitude. What was notable this time was that culprit was not secret — it was SpaceX'sWikipedia first test launch of their Falcon 9 rocket. Its trajectory was known, so people were able to plug it in various satellite tracking software and determine that it was in the right place at the right moment.[5] Moreover, people who were watching the live webcast were able to see with their own eyes the moment from which the second stage of the rocket started an uncontrollable roll. ("Roll" in aircraft and spacecraft is the rotation around the craft's longest axis.) From one moment on, the roll control nozzle stopped moving and the rocket started visibly rotating. SpaceX later tracked the problem and fixed it.[6] During the flight, they had also attempted a re-ignition of the engines after the initial burn, which didn't go as planned and may have been responsible for the propellant venting that formed the "Spiral".

External links[edit]


  1. Also known as the Norway Spiral to people who don't like adjectives and as the 2009 Norwegian spiral anomaly to the pedantic folk over at Wikipedia.