‘It was all luck’: Photographer captures SpaceX rocket shooting across Manitoba’s skies

A photographer out camping in a Manitoba provincial park saw a spectacular sight as he gazed up into the stars – the launch of a SpaceX rocket shooting across the sky.

Justin Anderson, a Manitoba-based Aurora chaser and night sky photographer, had been camping in Nopiminig Provincial Park on the weekend with a friend. The two had been photographing Northern Lights when, around 1:13 a.m. on Sunday, they saw something.

“It was all luck,” Anderson told CTV News. “We just got back to our campsite when he pointed out to me saying, ‘Hey, what’s that in the sky?’ and we thought initially it was the moon just because it was so bright – and it just kept getting brighter and brighter.

“That’s when I grabbed my camera and started recording.”

What Anderson and his friend saw hundreds of kilometres above their head was the launch of the SpaceX Globalstar FM15 mission. The Falcon 9 rocket launched on Sunday at 12:27 a.m. ET at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Anderson said has never seen anything like it before and didn’t expect to see it in Manitoba.

“It’s been on my bucket list to shoot a rocket launch for a while,” he said. “But I was thinking I would have to plan a trip to Florida for that, not a trip to Nopiming Provincial Park.”

Scott Young, the planetarium astronomer at the Manitoba Museum, said there were similar sightings of across North America.

“It matches exactly the path of a SpaceX rocket that was basically putting a satellite into orbit,” he told CTV News. “A lot of people could see it. They have no idea what it is at the time and then only afterwards are we able to sort of figure out what it was they saw.”

He said it takes a lot of luck to be able to see a rocket like this shooting across the stars. However, Young said it is the perfect time of year to be looking skywards as the northern hemisphere approaches the summer solstice. During this time the sky from our perspective is dark, but everything in orbit is lit up by sunlight, giving stargazers quite a show.

“If you don’t see a newly rocket launch, you might see an old rocket that is tumbling around and flashing or a satellite where the sun glints off of the solar panel,” he said. “There’s always something going on up there in the sky, so it’s always worth watching.”

Young said what makes these sorts of sightings so spectacular is the fact that you don’t need specialized equipment see it – you just have to be in the right place at the right time.

Anderson said now that he has seen it, he plans to spend a bit more time planning out his trips in hopes of catching another launch.

“It was just a pretty incredible experience,” he said. “And it was pretty special to get my first rocket launch in Manitoba too.” 

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