A mysterious light in the sky was spotted over China on Thursday, sparking panic. Witnesses shared pictures and videos of the unidentifiable object lighting up the night sky on Chinese social media channels, the object was seen above regions of Beijing, Chongqing, Shanxi and Inner Mongolia at about 6:45 pm local time.
According to Metro, the footage is of a hypersonic plane. The paper said the plane is owned by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and is capable of Mach 10 (7,672 mph) while carrying a nuclear warhead. Although there has been no official statement by Chinese, military bloggers claim the footage was caused by a hypersonic glide vehicle (known as DF-ZF).
Chris Bergin, managing editor of NASASpaceFlight.com, questions if the footage is just the “death throws” of the Soyuz rocket mishap from Thursday. Some Twitter users responded to his tweet and said, they think the “timing doesn’t match,” and it is, in fact, a hypersonic missile launch.
“Timing just don’t match. It happens that there was an airspace closure zone indicating something like a missile test from TSLC towards west earlier today, and while that one doesn’t match either (7am -ish UTC), it’s an indication that something else is responsible,” tweeted @cosmic_Penguin.
So let’s work out if 1) this is real. 2) If it’s actually from “tonight” (which works per the timezones if this has just been uploaded soon after filming it) 3) The trajectory options for the (failing) Soyuz FG…..
…Because this is wild if it’s the death throws of the rocket. https://t.co/PkOqcaHXR8
— Chris B – NSF (@NASASpaceflight) October 11, 2018
Another Chinese defense and security observer notes that “the PLARF seems to have conducted 2 test shots today at the Taiyuan space center, the 1st around 06h04 and the 2nd at 10:35 UTC. The latter is confirmed as a shot from base 65, formerly base 51. There have been many testimonies and 1 notice from the Local Government (Translated from French by Microsoft),” tweeted @HenriKenhmann.
La PLARF semble avoir mené 2 tirs d’essai aujourd’hui au centre spatial de Taiyuan, le 1er autour de 06h04 et le 2e vers 10h35 UTC. Ce dernier est confirmé comme étant un tir de la Base 65, anciennement Base 51. Il y a eu de nombreux témoignages et 1 notice du gouvernement local. pic.twitter.com/9s2LG4PE4Y
— East Pendulum (@HenriKenhmann) October 11, 2018
China’s Ministry of National Defense unveiled the DF-ZF in 2014 and has been tested a known seven times.
The images below were taken by residents Thursday:
“Residents in Chinese capital Beijing as well as in the northern regions of Inner Mongolia and Shaanxi province recorded videos showing the bright white plumes in the sky, which were also likened to SpaceX’s recent Falcon 9 launch after it created similar images.
As the DF-ZF’s test launches have all been from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in North China’s Shanxi province — and because no other satellite launchers were reported on the day — the sightings seem to corroborate suggestions that it was indeed the plane’s eight flight test to date,” said the Metro.
Finally it’s worth noting that if China wanted to censor the images, it would have; it did not. Instead, it appears that the footage may have been an explicit warning to the Trump administration, as trade and currency wars are rapidly “heating” up to whatever comes next.