Mystery missile vapour trail stumps Pentagon

The US military has so far been unable to explain an apparent missile vapour trail off the coast of California and is still trying to determine its cause, a Pentagon spokesman said.

Last Updated: Nov 10, 2010, 16:10 PM IST

Washington: The US military has so far
been unable to explain an apparent missile vapour trail off
the coast of California and is still trying to determine its
cause, a Pentagon spokesman said on Wednesday.

KCBS television caught the long exhaust plume on
camera as it arced into the evening sky west of Los Angeles
yesterday night, sparking reports of a missile launch.

Colonel David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said so far
none of the military or Department of Defence (DoD) agencies
that might have launched a missile "have come up and said they
were involved in this."

"So we`re still trying to find out what the contrail
off the coast of southern California was caused by," he said.
"Right now, all indications are that it was not a DoD
activity."

NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defence command
that tracks missile launches worldwide, said it was looking
into the reports but was unable to provide "specific details."

"We can confirm that there is no indication of any
threat to our nation and we will provide more information as
it becomes available," the command said in a statement.
ContrailScience.com, a website that debunks conspiracy
theories linked to contrails, suggested the sighting was an
optical illusion.

It said a contrail streaming horizontally from the
exhaust of an approaching aircraft can look like a vertical
missile shot if the end of the plume is hidden by the
curvature of the earth.

Ordinarily, a missile test would involve closure of
air space and notifications to mariners of when to stay clear
of the area, but none were known to have been made in this
case, Lapan said.

He said it was "implausible" that a military exercise
would have been conducted so near Los Angeles`s busy
international airport.

"That`s why at this point the operative term is
unexplained," Lapan added.

PTI