Green laser beams spotted over the Hawaiian Islands last month — videos and photos of which were shared on social media — reportedly came from a Chinese satellite, according to astronomers.
In a tweet on January 30, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) revealed that the space agency’s Subaru-Asahi Star Camera on Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii had recorded green laser lights shining in the cloudy sky over Maunakea, Hawaii.
On Jan 28, 2023, HST, Subaru-Asahi Star Camera captured green laser lights in the cloudy sky over Maunakea, Hawai`i. The lights are thought to be from a remote-sensing altimeter satellite ICESAT-2/43613.
Watch the video:https://t.co/xqoJvSa24s#SubaruTelescope pic.twitter.com/5hhIsewuNp
— Subaru Telescope Eng (@SubaruTel_Eng) January 31, 2023
The NAOJ initially believed that the lights had come from an ICESAT-2/43613 — a NASA remote-sensing altimeter satellite that CNET described as NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — which shoots lasers at Earth to measure the planet’s surface.
The original statement was corrected on February 6, with officials revealing that NASA scientists had done a “simulation of the trajectory of satellites that have a similar instrument and found a most likely candidate as the ACDL instrument by the Chinese Daqi-1/AEMS satellite.”
“We really appreciate their efforts in the identification of the light,” the NAOJ wrote. “We are sorry about our confusion related to this event and its potential impact on the ICESat-2 team.”
Speaking with local news outlet KHON2, the University of Hawaii Institute of Astronomy’s Roy Gal asserted that the green laser beams had actually come from a Chinese satellite — one that measures pollutants, “among other things.”
“It has many different instruments on it,” Gal said, adding: “Some kind of topographical mapping or they’re also used for measuring stuff in Earth’s atmosphere, and I think that’s what it is, environmental measurement satellite.”
He went on to note that the United States also has satellites conducting the same operations, and noted that China’s satellite does not pose a risk to the islands or the individuals living on them.
“No, it’s not a risk to Hawaii or anyplace else, too,” Gal asserted. “We have aircraft making these measurements all the time. If you’ve seen topographical maps with high precision, those are made using sometimes this kind of thing.”
Ray L’Heureux, former chief of staff of Marine Forces Pacific, expressed a different opinion about the Chinese satellite’s laser beams.
“I’m not sure, and this is my opinion, why the Chinese — who are probably some of the most prolific polluters on the planet — would be collecting data on pollutants on this side of the Pacific,” he said.
Citing the increasing tensions between the U.S. and China, L’Heureux warned that “people are a little antsy, and I think we just need to be a little bit more aware, vigilant.”
China is shining green lasers down to Earth from space from their satellites, this was near Hawaii
This doesn’t seem good pic.twitter.com/Xs1gOihAHu
— Hodgetwins (@hodgetwins) February 10, 2023