Infamous Contrail (aka the ‘Mystery Missile’) Spotted in Satellite Image
When an impressive contrail was spotted off the California coast last week, it sparked widespread reports of a mystery missile launch in the area – a theory the Pentagon squashed after initial investigations. But, the odd contrail fooled more than the public and media, and was even seen from space.
After watching footage of the Nov. 8 contrail, Patrick Minnis, a contrail expert in the Science Directorate at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., assumed it came from a missile, as many others did.
He even said so in response to a phone call from a reporter. [7 Things That Make Great Space Hoaxes]
“She responded with links to two different blogs that compared it to older aircraft contrail pictures, and indicated that the blog authors thought it was an aircraft contrail,” Minnis said of the reporter. “I had not really thought about that aspect previously and, at first glance, the video showed what looked like a missile launch. Once the idea that it was an aircraft contrail entered my head, I had to pay closer attention, because aircraft contrails are part of my job description.”
Later, he learned that fellow NASA scientist Doug Spangenberg had pieced together a photo of the mystery contrail from space after sifting through weather satellite images.