|Occurred : 9/19/2002 19:35 (Entered as : 09/19/02 19:35)
Reported: 9/19/2002 7:51:42 PM 19:51
Location: Palo Alto, CA
|white light and gaseous tail resembling a comet tracking through upper atmosphere, which exploded like a firework
I swear I saw this, and I was an Astronomy student, and I have no idea what the hell this was, but here it is. I was looking out my window to watch the sky darken (it was a little before dusk) and I saw what looked like light resembing what you would see when a plane comes in to land in the fog. Judging by the height (it seems as high as a jetliner would fly while cruising) I saw a light with a fog seeming to trail behind it, but I found it strange that if it were an aircraft with a light on in the upper atmosphere the "fog" would be opposite the direction it was moving. Anyway, as it travelled along, I was waiting for what I thought would be where the light would be pointed directly in my direction, when all of the sudden, it exploded into a faint, white fireball, that resembled what looks like a firework burst. All white, with symmetric white arms - just like what you'd see on July 4. Then they fissled out and it was gone. I have never seen anything like this. I'm guessing that it was a meteor, but it was moving so slow, and I have seen those before. There was no "fire trail" or sparks, and it was moving as if it were a jetliner. MAN, I wish I knew.
((NUFORC Note: Missile launch from Vandenberg AFB. Please see article. PD))
((BEGIN ASSOCIATED PRESS ARTICLE ABOUT LAUNCH))
Air Force Test Missile Out West
Fri Sep 20, 1:25 AM ET
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) - An Air Force missile test Thursday provided a spectacular light show seen over California and much of the West, as far away as Utah and New Mexico.
The colorful contrail was seen soon after the unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile blasted off at 7:36 p.m. from an underground silo at the Vandenberg military base north of Santa Barbara.
"The smoke went up in spirals as the sun was setting and turned into an orange, amber color. It was like a flower going into bloom pretty quickly," said Simon Cox, who saw it from a restaurant terrace in Santa Barbara.
The missile traveled about 4,200 miles in about 30 minutes, striking a predetermined target at the Kwajalein Missile Range in the western chain of the Marshall Islands, the Air Force said.
Vandenberg spokeswoman Kelly Gabel said clear conditions were responsible for the spectacular light show.
"We do this two or three times a year, but because the weather was so perfect we decided to launch it early," Gabel said. As a result, people were still awake to see it, and although the sun had set, sunlight below the horizon glinted off unspent fuel particles and water droplets.
"Suddenly we're getting calls from people as far away as New Mexico who saw it and want to know what it is," Gabel said.
The mission was directed by the 576th Flight Test Squadron at Vandenberg and the 341th Space Wing and the 341st Space Wing, from Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.
The purpose was to test launch systems and the missile's accuracy and reliability.
((END ARTICLE BY ASSOCIATED PRESS))