Mysterious green rays were noticed in the sky over the USA: where did they come from

A camera attached to the Subaru Telescope atop Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano in Hawaii, recently captured

a series of strange bright green lines.They were in the night sky for just over a second, flashing one after another. It turned out that the unexpected light show is the result of the work of lasers fired towards the Earth by a NASA spacecraft.

The picture was taken by the Subaru-Asahi Star Camera of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and the Japanese news agency Asahi Shimbun.

Internet users compared frame-by-framean image of lasers with "digital rain," or lines of green computer code, that fall vertically on the screen in the film The Matrix. In fact, the lasers were sent by a device aboard NASA's ICESat-2 satellite, NAOJ representatives wrote on social media.

An artist's interpretation of the ICESat-2 satellite that aims lasers at the Earth's surface. Image courtesy of NASA

ICESat-2 monitors changes in the cryosphere -parts of the Earth covered with solid precipitation, including snow, sea, lake and river ice; icebergs, glaciers, ice sheets, ice shelves and permafrost. The satellite uses an altimeter to do this, aiming bright lasers at the Earth's surface and then measuring how long it takes for them to return to the satellite's dish. The ATLAS altimeter aboard ICESat-2 is one of the most powerful. It fires 10,000 green laser pulses per second.

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