California Missile Launch … Or Aircraft Contrail


Images captured Monday evening near Los Angeles “could be a test firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile,” speculated former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Ellsworth, but at least one other source offered a more mundane explanation. Multiple news sources reported Tuesday that the Pentagon and other military sources “can’t explain” the images. On Tuesday that translated into rampant media repetition from CNN, Fox News, and other news outlets that no one could explain the “missile launch” that had taken place. Again, the “missile launch” reported was not supported by any official source contacted by the news outlets. For those who have been paying attention, Californians went through a similar experience in January. And in both the latest case and the January case, photographs of the contrails share similarities with photos of contrails left by aircraft flying inbound from over the horizon at sunset. Once you see the pictures, you may consider that possibility, too.

Optical illusions brought on by the sunset and the viewer’s perspective helped the images in each case mimic the appearance of a missile launch. At least one online source explains that the images could have been, and most likely were, produced by aircraft at altitude flying toward the observer and not by a missile launched from ground level, flying away. Some witnesses of Monday’s incident note the apparent lack of ballistic missile-like speed shown by the vehicle. AVweb has included for your study images of contrails. The first image (top) is an enlargement of the “missile launch” seen on Dec. 8. The second shows the January event that also led to similar “missile launch” speculation. The others are contrails left by aircraft that haven’t developed a large “missile launch” theory constituency. CBSNewsOnline’s video of the event, which either shows the glowing burn of a rocket engine moving away, or the shining reflection of a jetliner moving forward, is here.