|Occurred : 9/19/2002 19:35 (Entered as : 09/19/02 19:35)
Reported: 9/19/2002 8:01:21 PM 20:01
Location: Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
Duration:about 15 seconds
|Object leaves illuminated cloudlike spiralling path in the night sky, before disappearing
The sky was dark outside, with no clouds around at all. So I was very surprised when I looked outside and saw a bright cloudlike path, much like the trail left behind by a jet with a smoke trail. This trail was very bright against the night sky, and spirled around and around, and finally amassed into a large body of cloud-like radiance. This entire trail was so luminated, it almost looked like it was lit from within. As I followed the path with my eyes up to this large mass, I noticed movement towards the perimeter of this mass, moving upward. It appeared to be a small craft or object, moving upward. The direction of the path was from south to north. I followed this object visually for a few seconds, and then it almost appeared to explode. I do not know what happened to it after that. And they sky was left brightened by this cloudlike path for about 20 minutes. After the craft disappeared, I saw a few aircraft in the area.
((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))