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Los Angeles Missile Contrail Explained in Pictures
[Update] Download the Google Earth files used to make some of the images below, and judge for yourself (or show your friends). There’s a video to show you how.
CBS News chopper, filming the sunset on Nov 8th, 2010, catches this video of what looks like a missile, although moving suspiciously slowly. I’d estimate this is around 5:16PM, the sun is below the horizon. Low clouds are in shadow.
They cut to an earlier shot (note it’s just above the wispy clouds). Zooming in the tip of the contrail appears to be flickering. The flickering only shows up a for a few seconds. Insert shows sunlight reflecting off a plane, and reproduced with similar scale and background. The actual lighting conditions would be different, with the sun reflecting off the lower portions of the plane.
Here’s an example of light reflecting off a small area of a jet. This is in real time. As light reflects off different areas, it can appear to be flickering.
The chopper continues to film the object for several minutes. It does not move much (unlike a missile).
They zoom in on whatever is making the trail. It’s very far away, so you can’t make it out.
Later, they notice the object is no longer leaving a trail, and appears as a dark dot above the old trail, which is now being spread out by the winds.
They zoom in on this dark dot, and you can see it looks a bit like a contrail left by a high altitude plane that’s far away. Still too far away to make out the actual plane.
Earlier, at 5:19, Rick Warren takes this image from his 10th floor balcony in Long Beach. Note these are the same clouds, so it’s taken from a similar position. The wider part of the trail is obscured.
He took several more photos, at different zoom levels, but all from the same position. You can clearly see the plane as it stops leaving a persistent contrail.
By aligning the building on the horizon, we can overlay these images to see the path the plane takes.
Adding that to the wide shot, we can draw a line showing how the plane moved though the sky. It does not match the contrail, as that has been blown south by the wind. The angle is greatly exaggerated by perspective. That dark line on the left is the shadow cast by the contrail.
Using Google Earth, we can position the virtual camera in the same place that Richard Warren took his photos from. Compare this with the previous photo. It matches exactly.
Then we add in the exact radar track of Flight UPS902 from Nov 8th, 2010, obtained from FlightWise.com
Then we can overlay the composite Warren photo, showing that the observed flight matches the radar track exactly. The timing matches too, at 5:19 UPS902 was right at the top of the sunlit contrail on the right.
We can do something similar with the CBS footage. Because it was taken from a moving chopper it’s a lot harder to align, but we can use the cloud levels, and features within the contrail itself (click image for larger version)
You can see the CBS footage contains shots from a few minutes before Rick’s first shot (which matches the most vertical looking trail). Note the extreme change in angle of the trail over the ten minutes of CBS footage. That would be impossible if it were firing away, but makes perfect sense if the trails are parallel and horizontal.
Rick was kind enough to supply the original images, which included a later shot and several intermediate shots. The timestamp on the image was used to verify the position on the radar track. At 5:19:04, flight UPS902 was exactly where Rick photographed it (Another proof that the contrail is horizontal is that it is always evenly lit as the sun goes below the horizon, a vertical contrail would have a dark base and bright top)
Using the ten images, we can provide a rough animation of the flight of the jet.
This is the exact path of flight UPS902 (as recorded by Los Angeles ARTCC) as it approaches the area from Hawaii.
Later another Nov 8th image was found, from a web cam at LAX. This was taken at about 5:17 (the web cam clock is a bit off, you can check that yourself).
The camera moved around a bit, but by taking a daytime shot from the same web cam, we can set up a virtual camera in Google Earth in the same position.
The night image is scaled and aligned with the day image, then using the same camera position, we can see where the plane was. It matches the radar track exactly. Since this triangulates the plane in 3D space, and in time, it proves that the object was flight UPS902.
(Image from “timewstr” of AboveTopSecret) On GOES weather satellite, this shows the trail forming around 5:15 to 5:30, then being blow to the south, exactly as is suggested in by the photos. The trails move 20 miles in 15 minutes, so winds are 80 mph
This gives us the angle of the contrail, and we can add one in to Google Earth, at around 5:19, and see that when viewed from Long Beach curvature of the earth makes it look exactly like the “missile” trail.
Flight UPS902 was an MD-11, a three-engine plane that can leave a contrail that looks like it’s coming from one engine. Notice that when reduced to scale, the plane itself is barely noticeable, and certainly not when it’s as blurred as the CBS footage.
The next day, Nov 9th 2010, Tom Carroll, a retired engineer from Rockwell’s Space Division took this photo of a similar contrail in the same spot in the sky. This does not happen every day, just when the weather was right. The Nov 8th contrail was particularly dramatic, and the news chopper just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Relevant portion of UPS902 11/8/2010 track log from FlightWise.com (Times are in UTC, hence +7 from PDT, so 5PM on the 8th, is 1AM on the 9th). The portion that the Warren photos covers is highlighted in red.