Mysterious green lasers lighting up the night sky were originally thought to be the work of a NASA satellite; however, additional analysis shows the bright flashes from space are originating from a Chinese weather-observing satellite. The mysterious lights were first captured by cameras mounted to the Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii. The astronomy district there is home to some of the world’s most powerful ground-based telescopes and capture things happening in space far away as well as close. On January 28, a camera mounted on a telescope there captured footage of a series of eerie, bright green lines that shot across the night sky for just over a second.
Originally, experts who observed the images believe the light show was the result of a NASA spacecraft. The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) initially believed the lasers were from NASA’s ICESat-2, which measures the thickness of the Earth’s sea ice and ice sheets among other things. However, additional analysis now shows the mysterious green lights are coming from what China is calling a weather observation satellite.
According to NAOH, the likely candidate spacecraft lighting up the night sky is the Chinese Daqi-1/AEMS satellite.
According to China, the Daqi-1 / AEMS is equipped with five remote sensing instruments including atmospheric detection lidar, high-precision polarization scanner, multi-angle polarization imager, ultraviolet hyperspectral atmospheric composition detector, and wide-field imaging spectrometer, which can greatly improve global carbon monitoring and atmospheric pollution monitoring ability.
China has yet to confirm whether their spacecraft is responsible for these laser beams coming down through the Earth’s atmosphere.
China has been in the news lately for another weather instrument: an out-of-control weather balloon. A large balloon drifted across a large portion of the United States last week. China officially called it a wayward weather balloon responsible for taking atmospheric readings. The U.S. Pentagon disagrees, saying the huge balloon carrying a payload the size of a regional jet aircraft was a high-tech spy craft, capturing communications and high-resolution imagery over sensitive areas of the United States. After the balloon moved off the U.S. East Coast, it was shot down by U.S. military aircraft.
China, which continues to contradict the Pentagon saying the balloon was a weather balloon, fired the chief of their weather agency, Zhuang Guota, last weekend. Guota led the China Meteorological Administration, the Chinese equivalent of the National Weather Service in the U.S.. Guota was fired before the U.S. shot down one balloon off of the Carolina coast. Other balloons were detected near Hawaii and central and south America in recent days and months. If the Daqi-1 / AEMS satellite is a weather instrument, it likely would have been overseen by Guota too.