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Conspiracy Theorists Misinterpret SpaceX Rocket Launch Photo as Laser Causing Hawaii Fires

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Photo: Conspiracy Theorists Misinterpret SpaceX Rocket Launch Photo as Laser Causing Hawaii Fires. Source: ArsTechnica
Photo: Conspiracy Theorists Misinterpret SpaceX Rocket Launch Photo as Laser Causing Hawaii Fires. Source: ArsTechnica

The devastating forest fires in Hawaii, which have claimed the lives of 99 individuals, have sparked a new wave of conspiracy theories. According to a report by ArsTechnica, a journalist from the publication reveals that a photograph from a 2018 article covering the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch is being wrongly used to depict a massive laser responsible for igniting the forest fires.

Aligned with certain conspiracy claims, this image has been linked to the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) and alleged government manipulation of weather conditions.

However, in reality, this photo is merely a part of a visual account of the launch of the Iridium NEXT-6 mission on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Notably, this launch occurred during daylight hours, an uncommon occurrence for launches from this site. The uniqueness of this image lies in its portrayal of the rocket's launch, captured with a long exposure, rather than a bright column of light against the backdrop of the sky.

"In total, the article consisted perhaps of 100 words and a dozen photographs. However, one of them, the second photograph in the gallery, was taken with a long exposure, capturing the column of flames during the rocket's ascent. This photograph appears at the top of this article. It's a beautiful shot. In a chance conversation several months later, the SpaceX photographer who captured this image thanked me for sharing it," the author of the article states.

The exact causes of the massive fires in Hawaii are yet to be determined. They are likely linked to climate change, but within the broader picture, they encompass drought in the region and a strong high-pressure system north of the islands, resulting in extremely gusty winds.

One non-conspiratorial theory explores the wear and tear of Hawaiian Electric's power infrastructure, as some ignition points were located near fallen power lines that could have been brought down by the strong winds. A similar incident occurred in California in 2019 when widespread fires, leading to the destruction of over 20,000 homes and the loss of more than 100 lives, were caused by the outdated equipment of the local power company, Pacific Gas and Electric Company. The company was held responsible for 30 fires and paid over $11 billion in damages before declaring bankruptcy.

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