A “mystery missile” spotted around sunset yesterday in California was likely a jet contrail, a Harvard scientist has deduced.
Conspiracy theorists have been having a bit of a web field day after a CBS helicopter team snapped what appeared to be missile launch off the coast of Los Angeles. The scuttlebutt really heated up when the Pentagon was unable to at first identify the origin of the “mystery missile” or offer a plausible explanation for what looked like a random missile launch. Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said:
“Nobody within the Department of Defense that we’ve reached out to has been able to explain what this contrail is, where it came from… So far, we’ve come up empty with any explanation.”
According to a “Harvard astronomer who tracks space launches” that analyzed the phenomenon for New Scientist, the setting sun juxtaposed with a jet contrail to create the illusion of an unidentified missile. The astronomer, Jonathan McDowell, said:
“If it’s coming over the horizon, straight at you, then it rises quickly above the horizon,” he told New Scientist. “You can’t tell because it’s so far away that it’s getting closer to you – you’d think it was just going vertically up,” he says.
“It’s critical that it’s at sunset – it’s a low sun angle. It really illuminates the contrail and makes it look very dense and bright.”
The astronomer said he’s about 90% convinced a plane is responsible for the sighting, and that if a missile caused it, it’s odd that no one aside from the helicopter crew appears to have spotted it.
Video of the original news broadcast, below: