How planes get mistaken for missiles


This photo sure looks like a rocket, but it's not. Taken on December 31, 2009, it shows the contrail of a jet plane, writes private pilot Mick West on his ContrailScience blog. The plane is moving horizontally. It just looks vertical because of the perspective. The photographer happens to be pretty closely lined up with the direction the jet is flying. That makes sense to me. I live under a flight path for the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and, at night, I can go out to a nearby lake and watch the lights of planes as they appear to rise up—perfectly vertically—from behind the trees.

West actually took a photo of this same contrail from a very different angle. You can see it, behind the Home Depot sign, looking much, much more horizontal from this vantage point.


Isn't it amazing what a difference perspective makes? As you might have guessed, West thinks the November 8th mystery missile was also a jet plane contrail, caught on camera from a discombobulating angle. He makes a pretty good argument for this theory in several posts on his blog. But I thought this older contrail was fascinating all on its own.