Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mystery Missile Launch near Los Angeles - or an Aircraft Contrail?

This morning the news media are filled with reports of a "mystery missile" fired off the California coast near Los Angeles. At this moment, the Drudge Report headline screams "MYSTERY MISSILE FIRED OFF CA COAST; PENTAGON 'NO CLUE'.  CBS News in Los Angeles is reporting, " A mysterious missile launch off the southern California coast was caught by CBS affiliate KCBS's cameras Monday night, and officials are staying tight-lipped over the nature of the projectile. CBS station KFMB put in calls to the Navy and Air Force Monday night about the striking launch off the coast of Los Angeles, which was easily visible from the coast, but the military has said nothing about the launch." http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/11/09/national/main7036716.shtml 

Here is the news video of the object:



It certainly looks like a missile launch! But is it? The Pentagon denies all knowledge of any possible launch, and if a foreign country were to fire a missile so close to our shores, it would be an act of war.

Well, as surprising as it may sound, the object seems to have been simply an aircraft contrail, with tricks of perspective making it look like a missile flying away from you, when in fact it was an aircraft flying toward you! This is not the first time such a thing has happened. On Dec. 31, 2009, much the same excitement occurred off the coast just south of Los Angeles in Orange County. This blog from ContrailsScience.com lays it all out with impeccable logic: http://contrailscience.com/a-problem-of-perspective-in-the-oc-new-years-eve-contrail/

First, it depends on an effect of perspective. The aircraft's path must be directly toward, or away from, the  observer. Second, even though the contrail is five miles above the ground, as it recedes into the distance it appears to touch the ground, because of the curvature of the earth. As shown by the daytime photo of the vertical contrail on ContrailsScience, we know that the aircraft that made it was not flying straight up like a rocket, but when seen directly straight-on, that is what it looks like. And for viewers a few miles away, getting a different perspective, all they see is an ordinary-looking slanted contrail.

Nor is the California Coast the only place where this same illusion has been sighted, and reported. As I wrote in my Psychic Vibrations column (Skeptical Inquirer, July/Aug., 2010), in January, 2010 residents of the tiny Canadian coastal town of Harbour Mille, Newfoundland reported seeing exactly the same 'mystery missiles' as was photographed near Los Angeles yesterday (see http://www.tinyurl.com/rocketsNL ). One Canadian politician went to far as to blame the French for launching missiles so close to Canadian territory. But the French replied that they had not launched anything on that day. But the Finnish UFO investigator Bjorn Borg explained how the Newfoundland "missiles' are simply contrails seen at just the right angle (see http://www.tinyurl.com/rocket-illusion ). "Every year this comes up in the news," he said.

And the award for Best Pompous Pontification by an Uninformed Ass goes to former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Robert Ellsworth, also a former Deputy Secretary of Defense, who was happy to appear on TV and speculate that, because President Obama is in Asia, "It could be a test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile from a submarine … to demonstrate, mainly to Asia, that we can do that." As if anyone in Asia seriously doubted that the U.S. could launch missiles from a submarine! Ellsworth added that ICBM testing was carried out in the Atlantic to demonstrate America's power to the Soviets during the Cold War, but he says doesn't believe an ICBM has been tested by the U.S. over the Pacific. I have two words for him: Vandenberg and Kwajalein. Such ICBM tests over the Pacific occur on a regular basis (see http://www.krsjv.com/Pages/Mission.aspx ). So much for seeking "informed comments" from a former Deputy Secretary of defense.

(Be sure to also see the following post, "Conspiracy Theorists Continue to Flog 'Mystery Missile' ".

20 comments:

  1. Good post Robert! In regards to Ellsworth, I agree completely!

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  2. Never count on the mainstream media to get to the bottom of things. But it sure looks good on televion!

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  3. What about this?

    http://164.214.12.45/MSISiteContent/StaticFiles/NAV_PUBS/UNTM/201045/NtM_45-2010.pdf

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  4. Sorry, more specifically, page 55:

    434/10(18).
    EASTERN NORTH PACIFIC.
    CALIFORNIA.
    MISSILES.

    1. INTERMITTENT MISSILE FIRING OPERATIONS 0001Z TO 2359Z
    DAILY MONDAY THRU SUNDAY IN THE NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER
    SEA RANGE. THE MAJORITY OF MISSILE FIRINGS TAKE PLACE
    1400Z TO 2359Z AND 0001Z TO 0200Z DAILY MONDAY THRU FRIDAY

    IN AREA BOUND BY
    34-02N 119-04W, 33-52N 119-06W, 33-29N 118-37W,
    33-20N 118-37W, 32-11N 120-16W, 31-54N 121-35W,
    35-09N 123-39W, 35-29N 123-00W, 35-57N 121-32W,
    34-04N 119-04W.

    2. VESSELS MAY BE REQUESTED TO ALTER COURSE WITHIN THE ABOVE AREA DUE TO FIRING OPERATIONS AND ARE REQUESTED TO CONTACT PLEAD CONTROL ON 5081.5 MHZ (5080 KHZ) OR 3238.5 KHZ (3237 KHZ) SECONDARY OR 156.8 MHZ (CH 16) OR 127.55 MHZ BEFORE ENTERING THE ABOVE BOUNDARIES AND MAINTAIN CONTINUOUS GUARD WHILE WITHIN THE RANGE.

    3. VESSELS INBOUND AND OUTBOUND FOR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PORTS WILL CREATE THE LEAST INTERFERENCE TO FIRING OPERATIONS DURING THE SPECIFIC PERIODS, AS WELL AS ENHANCE THE VESSEL'S SAFETY WHEN PASSING THROUGH THE VICINITY OF THE SEA RANGE IF THEY WILL TRANSIT VIA THE SANTA BARBARA CHANNEL AND WITHIN NINE MILES OFFSHORE VICINITY OF POINT MUGU OR CROSS THE AREA SOUTHWEST OF SAN NICOLAS ISLAND BETWEEN SUNSET AND SUNRISE.

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  5. OK, here is an article from the Orange County Register about the "mystery launch" of Dec. 31, 2009:

    http://sciencedude.ocregister.com/2009/12/31/mystery-launch-visible-off-oc/75161/

    Remember, this is not the incident of Nov. 8, 2010, but one occurring about ten months earlier. Same deal. Because of the viewing angle and the exceptionally clear skies, am aircraft contrail looked like a missile being launched.

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  6. Here's a hilarious piece from the Los Angeles Times: "L.A. ‘mystery missile’ may have been errant launch, experts say," or "Honey, I launched the kids."

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/11/la-mystery-missile-may-have-been-errant-launch.html

    Again, "experts" who have no actual information on the subject talking rubbish. Before speculating on "where" the alleged missile came from, one first needs to determine "whether" a missile was, in fact, filmed. Let's see: it was moving too slowly to be a missile, there was no bright glow from a rocket engine (if you've ever seen an actual rocket launch, you won't forget that sight), nothing unexpected turned up on any radar, and nobody saw or photographed anything except the guy in the traffic helicopter. Sounds to me like a North Korean missile.

    Digital Ruse (comment #4), I don't see a date specified anywhere in that posting. Are you sure it included 0100Z 9 Nov?

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  7. Thanks Bob! I saw several pilots posting off of some of the original story that the con-trails looked like regular jet trails seen from a particular angle - and of course they were dismissed as ignorant or helping in the cover-up. Then coming home today I saw almost the exact same thing here in North GA. Lots of beautiful (if you're in to this kind of thing) contrails in the crisp autumn skies around here this week.

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  8. Suggestions that claim the launch was only a contrail from a aircraft that only appears to have come the surface, is a lie. Video footage plainly shows the object at the leading edge of the smoke column on a definite ascension from the surface. The fact there was no engine flame indicates the object was not a normal missile. Even if the object was a missile from Korea or somewhere, what does it say for American defense systems that missed a launch platform just 35 miles of the Californian coast? Nay-sayers are so eager to offer up lame explanations, they forget or ommit obvious details plainly shown in the videos. I believe as we approach 2012, there will be many strange aerial phenomenon that will shut up the most devoted skeptic.

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    Replies
    1. Greetings from 2013. We're still waiting.

      Delete
  9. I think there is a difference in the types of missiles being used in the case of the notice. They probably are describing anti-ship missile firings. They are not describing aircraft but "vessels", which is often a reference to ships.

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  10. If the above is true then how come other like flights have never appeared as a missile launch and can't wait to read the answer to that one. It was once said that any event or thing can be reasoned away even though the relative premises are errant. I believe Gobbles (Sp.) the Nazi propagandists was a master at this sort of thing.

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  11. Robert,

    I don't agree with your assessment. I am a former US Air Force F-16 pilot 1988-2007 logging over 4000 flight hours in this type and I currently fly Gulfstream IV's with over 2,000 hours in type. I have over 7000 hours of total flight time. I've seen and made my share of contrails. Initially I thought the same. Upon closer examination of enhanced photos I can't agree with your contrail assessment. US Airways flight 808 from Honolulu to PHX is the alleged contrail platform. US 808 is a Boeing 757 - a twin engine aircraft. When twin engines jets are "conning" as we say in pilot speak, they ALWAYS leave two distinct cons (pilot speak for contrails) which emanate from each of the engines then tail back to join normally one continuous con. Depending on atmospherics (temp, moisture) cons can be thin, thick, short or long. NEVER have I seen where one can not identify distinct plumes from individual engines. Analysis of this video and associated stills indicates a single source, single plume. Very much not like that of a twin engine airliner. I would like to hear the tapes from LA Center (ZLA), Oakland Center (ZOA) and Oakland FIR. If it was an errant missile shot, do you think the DoD would own up to it? Or deny it? Lex Parsimoniae - I say not jet.

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  12. Correction to the Nov 10 posting by Digital Ruse...see page 7 of http://www.nga.mil/MSISiteContent/StaticFiles/NAV_PUBS/UNTM/201047/Broadcast_Warn.pdf.
    This was the warning issued on Nov 8 at 7:20 AM PST (i.e., the morning of the sighting), superseding the earlier one that Digital Ruse posted.
    It appears to be a regularly reissued warning. But in any case, this is the one that applies to the time period (Monday evening) in question.

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  13. Interesting comment GCal747!

    I wrote a blog about it the other day focusing on a different aspect (quality of journalism), and at the time, I believed it to MOSTLY be a contrail. But now...the more I look at pictures of the con, the video of the bright exhaust -(or sun reflecting on aircraft 'skin'?)...I must admit, it's starting to look like a missile to me.

    I'll probably update my blog with my new uncertainties. lol

    You all should listen to what this 35 year pilot, and military general said about it, he believes it's a missile launch as well. And he seems pretty competent, and knowledgeable about current missile systems. Here's the link, he's one of the talking heads in the second YouTube video toward the bottom.

    http://theintelhub.com/2010/11/11/missile-expert-raided-in-late-october-connected-to-california-launch/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

    What do you guys think?

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  14. Conspiracy theorists are saying that if this were a jet contrail, you would see two separate plumes, one from each wing. Look at the still photo that is the icon for the video posted above, with the newswoman pointing to the supposed "mysterious missile." See the two plumes?

    People, what more do you need to see to convince yourself that this is simply a contrail from a commercial jet? Alas, logic holds no sway when Conspiracy Theories are set forth.

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  15. Robert, I respectfully disagree. A better look than the icon photo is at 16 seconds into the video. Note that the areas of light and shadow make what is definitely a single plume appear, at first glance, to be two. I believe that light/shadow effect is still "at work" on the lower extremities of the contrail/plume below. But...I would want to see higher-quality images to be sure.

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  16. The following comment is from my longtime friend James "The Amazing" Randi, who doesn't participate in things like "Open ID", but asked me to post this comment:

    "Here, as usual, the media embraced an item without doing any research, because it was attractive. "Attractive," to them, means anything that involves invoking fear, terrorism, conspiracy, religious miracles, pseudoscience, or quackery. It is published - preferably with a bad pun as a headline - after being scripted by a kid without any background in science (that would spoil the spontaneity) and the addition of comments from terrified callers who saw Satan in the sky... And Sheaffer has to ruin a perfectly good trashy item, as usual...! Strangely, I couldn't find a single news reference to his clear, succinct, analysis - because I'm sure that was immediately unpopular."

    Thanks, Randi. Actually, there was just one single news reference to this blog, in an AOL news story by Sharon Weinberger:

    http://www.aolnews.com/nation/article/experts-mystery-contrail-was-plane-not-missile/19711033

    She is the author of "Imaginary Weapons," a book describing how the Pentagon has wasted millions of dollars pursuing supposed weapons based on fringe science, weapons that can't possibly work. So she is already a skeptic.

    But that was all! The rest of the news media have ignored it.

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  17. Why did the president arrange to be on the opposite side of the planet for the mystery missile launch?

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