At the beginning of the month, a “mysterious missile launch” recorded from South California sparked a lot of media interest until it was identified as a commercial flight UPS902 from Honolulu to Ontario, California. The sunlit contrail looked like a rocket exhaust, but unlike any rocket, its source moved very slowly.
Mick West over at ContrailScience did a superb job presenting the evidence for the identification, as this may be one of the most irrefutable explanations for an intriguing aerial phenomenon in the history of intriguing aerial phenomena.
It goes from multiple photos allowing triangulation which matches in time and space the radar track of flight UPS902 to satellite imagery of the contrail and even previous cases of contrails that look like rocket plumes. Just check all the evidence, it’s quite beautiful to see so many independent evidence converging into one single and clear explanation thanks to the wonders of the modern information age – and Mick West and his many collaborators, of course.
Now, though most people called it a “mysterious missile launch”, one could just as well name it a “ghost rocket”. As Bob Sheaffer noted, the classic 1946 photo of a ghost rocket in Sweden, the only known photo of the wave that anticipated modern ufology by a year, is usually interpreted as a meteor.
But couldn’t that actually be a contrail? “People in Sweden, seeing [in 1946] the unfamiliar new phenomenon of high-altitude contrails, [may have] perceived them as menacing rockets launched by one great power or another.”
It would have been quite a feat to capture a meteor trail in the sky with an old camera, but a contrail not unlike the recent California one would be in the sky for several minutes. Much easier. Much more probable?
Contemporary investigations did mention contrails as one of several explanations for the “ghost rockets” (none of them involving actual rockets, nor alien spaceships), but it would be quite curious if the sole photo of that wave is of a contrail rather than a meteor.
Much more so that more than six decades later, with people in California very familiar with contrails, ghost rockets may still cause a lot of confusion.
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