January 28 saw a peculiar event taking place above the sky of Hawai’i. Green lights were seen coming down from the heavens. The bizarre effect, reminiscent of the computer-inspired title screen of The Matrix, was not proof that we live in a simulation. However, it wasn't a NASA satellite taking observations, as previously thought, either.
The image and videos were snapped by the Subaru-Asahi Star Camera, a 24/7 live stream of the sky, on the Subaru telescope located at the summit of Maunakea. According to the caption on the video the team shared, the lights only occurred for a second or less but were spotted by keen-eyed viewers.
It had been suspected the culprit is ICESat-2, NASA's Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2, but scientists from the ICESat-2 ATLAS team have confirmed it wasn't their instrument.
“According to Dr. Martino, Anthony J., a NASA scientist working on ICESat-2 ATLAS, it is not by their instrument but by others,” an updated note on the Youtube video states. “His colleagues, Dr. Alvaro Ivanoff et al., did 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.”
The Subaru-Asahi Star Camera regularly catches strange phenomena in the night sky over Hawai'i. However, the presence of telescopes on the summit of Maunakea and the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope is controversial as it is a sacred site for Native Hawaiians. Pollution from the current observatories, failures in decommissioning, mismanagement of the site, and legal problems are some of the many issues that have been raised against this development.
This article has been updated to include the statement from the ICESat-2 team that the lights were not related to their instrument.