Examining Official Explanation of the Mystery 'Missile'

The government has announced that a "mystery missile" was in fact a jet contrail. But what does the evidence show?

As Discovery News' Ian O'Neill reported,

On Monday evening, something launched approximately 35 miles off the Californian coast. A news helicopter even filmed the rocket-like contrail rising like an arced pillar in the sunset. If seeing is believing, there was definitely a rocket launch of some description. However, no one is claiming responsibility. The U.S. military seems baffled, U.S. airspace was not notified of any commercial satellite launches, no regional Air Force bases had any launches planned and all we're left with are scores of theories as to what it might be.

These theories ranged from UFOs, to a secret missile launch, to government testing of so-called toxic "chemtrails." Within a day, some researchers including UFO investigator Robert Sheaffer suspected that the "missile" was in fact simply an airplane contrail: "the object seems to have been simply an aircraft contrail, with tricks of perspective making it look like a missile flying away from you, when in fact it was an aircraft flying toward you. It depends on an effect of perspective."

It took another day for the government to complete its investigation. When they did, Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan noted,

"With all the information that we have gathered over the last day and a half about this condensation trail off the coast of southern California on Monday night, both within the Department of Defense and other U.S. government agencies, we have no evidence to suggest that this was anything other than a contrail caused by an aircraft. Lapan said the determination was based on a combination of factors such as ‘looking at that video and having people determine what the likely cause was...this is how these conditions cause contrails to appear this way, and making sure it wasn't one of our missiles."

But is this "explanation" real or just a cover-up?

Let's look at the evidence comparing the contrail explanation to the missile theory.

1) According to the Federal Aviation Administration, radar in the area did not reveal any fast-moving unknown targets. A missile would have been picked up on radar, while a jet would not have been flagged as unusual.

2) No trace of the alleged missile has been seen falling into the water off the coast of Los Angeles, nor has the missile or any part of it been recovered; it seems to have simply vanished into the sky. If the contrail was created by a plane, of course, no falling missile would be seen nor found.

3) The object seen in the video moves like a jet, not a rocket. As Michio Kaku, a physics professor at City University of New York noted on Good Morning America, "The trail seems to change direction. Ballistic missiles don't do that. It doesn't accelerate. Ballistic missiles accelerate up to 18,000 miles per hour, this is traveling at a constant velocity." While missiles accelerate greatly during launch, aircraft typically maintain a constant cruising speed once they have reached the desired altitude - exactly as the videotape shows.

4) There is no record of any missiles being fired at the location and time of the sighting, while there are records of commercial jets in the area at the time. One blogger, Liem Bahneman, has tentatively identified the route and flight number as US Airways Flight 808 from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Phoenix, Arizona.

5) Perhaps most damaging to the missile theory, the only people who saw (and recorded) the mysterious phenomenon were in one television helicopter videotaping the sunset. None of the nearly 4 million people living in Los Angeles noticed the "missile" launch, and pilots flying in the area reported seeing nothing unusual - and certainly not a missile being launched. This is very strong evidence that the phenomenon was only unusual from one unique perspective; that is, people looking at the same thing from different distances and angles recognized what it was, or didn't think it was strange. This supports the jet theory, and discredits the missile theory.

For the conspiracy theorists who insist that the missile was some sort of secret government test, this explanation collapses under the weight of its own illogic. Why would the government launch a "secret" missile only 35 miles from Los Angeles? It would be obvious to anyone looking in the skies.

Furthermore, there would be no reason for officials to hide or cover up the launch; missiles and satellites are routinely launched from the California coast. All the Pentagon would have to do is issue a statement telling the public that it was a planned launch, and the issue would go away.

Maybe we can't always believe the "official explanation," but when it fits the facts, we should.

Photo: A video frame grab by KCBS/KCAL shows what could be a missile launched off the California coast, Nov. 8, 2010. Credit: AP Photo/KCBS/KCAL