A streak across the sky visible rising out of the Pacific has sparked a great deal of discussion and concern as nobody seems to be taking credit for it—from NASA to the U.S. military. Two videos have surfaced of the “launch” but neither of much quality to actually see much more than a blur and a feathery contrail. One of the images, shot from a KCBS news helicopter, is making the rounds, and we get a bit of the story from CBS News,
Magnificent images were captured by the KCBS news helicopter in L.A. around sunset Monday evening. The location of the missile was about 35 miles out to sea, west of L.A. and north of Catalina Island.
A Navy spokesperson told KFMB it wasn’t their missile. He said there was no Navy activity reported in the area Monday evening.
On Friday night, Vandenberg Air Force Base, in California, launched a Delta II rocket, carrying an Italian satellite into orbit, but a sergeant at the base told KFMB there had been no launches since then.
We’re taking a pool on speculation right now as to the origin of the “missile.”
- First Google Van manned mission to the Moon (Lunar Google Street View!)
- A demonstration attracting attention for the movie Skyline (those pesky aliens.)
- A Silicon Valley start-up putting a satellite in orbit before warning their competition (or U.S. regulatory commissions that govern space launches…)
- Mythbusters managed to get a hot water heater stratospheric (I blame Jamie for using too many explosives, personally.)
Of course, the people at Wired have a potentially more terrestrial and rational explanation for what can be seen in the CBS video: a somewhat ordinary military jet. Numerous defense analysts have looked at the footage, pointed out that the U.S. missile-warning system didn’t freak out at the launch, and why almost nobody else noticed.
“The aircraft is flying towards the observer; the air over the Pacific is clear, so the contrail is visible all the way to the horizon. This creates the optical illusion of a rocket flying up, rather than the actual situation of an airplane flying horizontally,” Pike tells Danger Room. “The object generating the contrail is moving too slowly to be a rocket; the contrail is not expanding as the ‘rocket’ gains ‘altitude’ — which would be the case as the exhaust plume expanding into less dense high altitude air.”
Interestingly, the Navy does have a missile-testing facility situated very near the suspected launch site at nearby San Nicolas Island. However, while speculation and amusement runs wild, this isn’t the first time an aircraft has been mistaken for a missile—according to a report from 2008 on New Year’s Eve in the case of an aircraft photographed from San Clemente, California.
Perhaps California just has a bad track record of UFM sightings (not as fun as UFO sightings.)
[image credit: Telograph.co.uk]