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Green lasers beamed down over Hawaii by Chinese satellite

By Sarah May
|
February 14, 2023

As questions continue to mount about mysterious objects in the sky over America in recent days, astronomers have indicated their belief that green laser beams seen over Hawaii last month likely emanated from a Chinese satellite, as The Hill reports.

The sightings at issue were captured by a livestream camera operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) that was situated atop the Subaru-Asahi Telescope at Mauna Kea.

Correction issued

The laser beam flashes, which were over within seconds, were first attributed to what the NAOJ described as a “remote-sensing altimeter satellite” from NASA, as the New York Post notes.

However, about a week later, the agency retracted that assessment, declaring that NASA scientists had performed “a simulation of the trajectory of the satellites that have a similar instrument and found a most likely candidate as the ACDL instrument by the Chinese Daqi-1/AEMS satellite.”

Roy Gal of the University of Hawaii Institute of Astronomy opined, “It's a Chinese satellite that is measuring pollutants, among other things. It has many different instruments on it...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.”

Less convinced by that explanation, however, was Ray L'Heureux, former Marine Forces Pacific chief of staff, who said, “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.”

“Tensions are there”

While both Gal and L'Heureux insisted that the laser-bearing satellite was not a spy tool, discussion of it so close on the heels of the shoot down of the Chinese spy balloon in the water near South Carolina earlier this month understandably stokes suspicion.

Gal observed, “The U.S. has satellites to do the same thing, so, in this case, despite all the flurry well deserved flurry, about Chinese spy satellites and other devices, this one is just orbiting Earth and has a known orbit.”

L'Heureux, for his part, noted, “It seems to me that those tensions are there. People are a little antsy, and I think that we just need to be a little bit more aware, vigilant.”

The bottom line, in Gal's estimation, is that “it's not a risk to Hawaii or anyplace else, too. 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.”

Criticism builds

Despite reassurances that the green lasers over Hawaii are no cause for concern, many Americans remain on edge in light of three additional military takedowns of flying objects over the course of three days, as the Post noted separately.

The lack of forthcoming information from the federal government about the nature and origin of the objects has prompted a growing list of questions, few of which are receiving answers from Biden administration officials.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby claimed on Monday that the White House has been “as transparent as we can be” when it comes to the facts surrounding the objects, but seemed to hesitate to commit when asked whether President Joe Biden himself might speak to the American people about what is known thus far.

“I won't speak for the president's personal speaking schedule, but I mean, he has been deeply engaged in every one of these decisions. He's very much staying on top of the issue and directing his team to make sure we are properly consulting and briefing not just members of Congress, but state leaders as well.”

GOP demands answers

A number of top Republicans have declared the administration's engagement with the public to be wholly insufficient, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stating Monday, “President Biden owes the American people some answers. What are we shooting down? Where do they come from? Whether they are hostile or not, is there coherent guidance about when to shoot them down?”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) voiced his opinion on the matter as well, saying, “After allowing a Chinese spy balloon to fly across America when we could've downed it off the Aleutian Islands, President Biden has now downed three 'objects' despite claiming last week that would have posed unacceptable risks to public safety.”

“The president owes the American people an explanation, direct and on camera, of what we know about these 'objects' and what steps he's taking to protect America's sovereign airspace,” Cotton added.

It is not just Republicans taking issue with Biden's lack of forthrightness on the matter, with Democrat Rep. James Hines (CT-04) declaring on Meet the Press this weekend that he harbors “real concerns” about the administration's lack of transparency and emphasizing that the “absence of information” will only add to the national sense of anxiety. Whether his comments – and others from his side of the aisle – will prompt additional disclosures in the coming days is something that remains to be seen.