Missile Contrail Sunrise Tyrone New Mexico

It streaked white across the sky and then twisted into a corkscrew-shaped cloud seen by stargazers for hundreds of miles. The Army wants puzzled people ...
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It streaked white across the sky and then twisted into a corkscrew-shaped cloud seen by stargazers for hundreds of miles. The Army wants puzzled people from California to New Mexico to know: It was no alien.

A missile test in New Mexico produced the curly contrail spotted early Thursday.

Military officials said they received numerous reports of the contrail being spotted in the Phoenix area. Residents of Navajo and Apache counties in Arizona’s White Mountains were able to see a good show if they happened to be looking at the sky.

Observers also took photos of the corkscrew-shaped cloud from Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California, more than 850 miles away.

“Usually what happens is it’s the contrail that causes the commotion,” White Sands Missile Range spokeswoman Cammy Montoya said, noting that many people call in asking if it’s a UFO.

A similar launch in 2012 created a buzz when reports flooded in about a colorful contrail that was visible from southern Colorado west to Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Las Vegas.

This time, officials shared information about the launch in advance with communities as far away as Palm Springs, California. Radio stations in Arizona also were broadcasting stories about what people could expect to see in the pre-dawn sky.

The unarmed Juno target missile launched at 6:55 a.m. from an old military depot in northwestern New Mexico and was aimed at White Sands Missile Range, some 215 miles away. Officials said a Patriot missile successfully intercepted it and it disintegrated in midair.

The contrail left behind has a different shape and color each time. It depends on the conditions at the time of the launch. For example, the rising sun has to illuminate the twisting cloud-like formation in just the right way. The amount of crystallized water vapor in the atmosphere can affect the color.

White Sands officials said the airspace over Fort Wingate, the site of the launch, and the drop zone for the booster was restricted for several hours Thursday. The airspace over White Sands is already a restricted zone.

Since 1997, there have been 14 target missions from Fort Wingate to White Sands. The last one was in September 2012.


Associated Press writer Paul Davenport in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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3 Comments | Report
JDLifeshots January 28, 2016
Great shot! Voted Red.
kathleenweetman PRO
kathleenweetman February 14, 2016
This is the most unusual trail in the contest.....Voted .k
1Ernesto February 14, 2016
I have watched this kind of event even closer than this one and was scared out of my alleged mind until I found out what was really going on. My first thought was we had been attacked as the first missle missed its target and the second blew it all over the sky. Thanks for the vote.
kathleenweetman PRO
kathleenweetman March 12, 2016
Also voted in Unstoppable comp....k
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