The whole country has kept a close eye on some unsettling images out of California Tuesday morning which seemed to show an exhaust tail of some sort of rocket or missile launched about 30 miles off the coast of Los Angeles. More questions arose after military and defense officials were unable to account for the "unexplained" occurrence and questions prompted some missile installations to order a full account of each missile on-hand.
Now, some experts are pointing to the science behind a jet's contrail -- the visible trail of exhaust from a jet engine -- and suggesting that the unidentified object may be nothing more than an airplane.
According to ContrailScience.com, the angle of launch, direction flight and curvature of the Earth can distort a jet's contrail enough to make it appear like a rocket's concentrated exhaust. The site also points to past pictures of confirmed plane contrails which look strikingly similar to the unidentified episode off the coast of Southern California.
The image on the left shows the mysterious vapor trail captured on camera over the California coast Tuesday morning. On the right is an image captured in December 2009 which shows what many suspected was a plane's contrail following take-off, though this has reportedly never been confirmed.
The website also points to other factors that may suggest the unexplained occurrence is nothing more than a simple jet engine. In reviewing the video, the site notes that there is no bright rocket flare, only a few flashes of sunlight reflection and a sunlit trail. In addition, the site suggests the contrail was created by a relatively slow-moving plane, compared with a rocket which would move at a much higher speed.
But while scientists review their rocket science, most alarming is how military officials continue to be baffled. Fox News reports:
Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters the video is so far "unexplained" by anyone in the U.S. Military. The military is examining the video provided by KCBS news and officials say they hope to have answers soon.
The Missile Defense Agency told Fox News it did not launch any test missile last night that could explain the dramatic images. The Navy and the Air Force were also unable to offer an explanation.
"It does not appear that this was a regularly scheduled missile test," Lapan said. "Before a missile test the military sends notifications to mariners, airmen, and air traffic controllers to stay clear of the area," and according to Lapan it doesn't appear those warnings were sent.