9 November 2010
The ‘Mystery Missile’ was an Airplane Contrail
Posted by Ryan Anderson
So, by now you have probably heard the breathless reports of an unidentified missile launched over the pacific off the coast of Los Angeles. This story has spread like wildfire through today’s news cycle, especially once former secretary of defense Robert Ellsworth started saying things like “It could be a test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile from a submarine”. Some stories contacted the Pentagon, which said that the apparent missile was “unexplained” which of course threw all the news networks into a frenzy.
Folks, what we have here is a failure to think critically. Or at all. I know it’s much more fun to just point at the sky and grunt and screech like startled apes, but honestly, we should be better than that.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the “mystery missile” was an airplane contrail. How many times have you looked up at a clear sky and seen a long narrow plume of vapor? There’s enough air traffic these days that it’s rare not to see one on a clear day. Ok, so how many times, upon seeing a contrail, do you immediately jump to the conclusion that you’re witnessing a dramatic show of force involving the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile? If you’re rational, which I assume you are since you’re reading this blog, then you don’t. You recognize a contrail for what it is and move on with your life.
And yet, somehow every major news network in the US failed this basic intelligence test. Was it because the contrail appeared to point upward from the horizon? Come on people. This isn’t that hard. The plane was coming almost straight toward the camera.
Thankfully, there are a few voices of reason out there. The site Contrail Science has an excellent and detailed post about the “contrail = missile” misconception, with a bunch of great pictures. IEEE Spectrum also has a good article about this non-newsworthy jet contrail.
The cynic in me says that “yes, obviously news networks knew this was a contrail, they just ran the missile story anyway because it’s sexy.” I’m not sure which is worse: not being able to do the tiny amount of critical thinking necessary to realize that this thing wasn’t a missile, or knowing it was actually a plane and freaking people out anyways. Either way, it’s a depressing reminder not to believe everything you see on the news.
Hat tip to Chase from The Last Bullpen on Earth for notifying me of this ‘mystery missile’ nonsense.
Nice try, but I ain’t buying this story! The contrails on the jet in this blog are far different from the plume of this missile. If one watches the video from its beginning, he will see the missile ascending from the surface of the Pacific Ocean skyward. And the contrail is unlike any I have ever seen from an airplane. This is no time for a cover-up. We need the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth!
The last picture was a joke, I’m not saying those look very similar. But the middle picture, and the many examples at the Contrail Science link look very similar. The illusion that the jet is “ascending” is just because the earth is curved, again if you had followed the link to the Contrail Science site you would understand this.
Buy ’em books buy ’em books all they do is eat the covers. Slap her down, Ryan.
yeah your right about the earth is curved and it makes the object looks like a shutle lunch but the modern war-fare of today is unbelievable even towards the human eye, im not buying it, air-plane or ufo where’s the proof that this mistaken object was an air-plane. This object has the patential of what Hitler had in plan, an air-craft that can reach high peaks in the sky that can BOMB or destroy the target from long distance, or say the other-side of the earth. Now this type of weapon that the Russians tested during Hitlers rain. Take heed and prove what you believe for-self or just be care-less of others. What is’ it really?
November is ratings time in TV land…otherwise known as “sweeps”. You will likely get a lot of other sensational stories to debunk as the month goes on.
Sooooo… why not just have ATC simply say: “Flight so-and-so was at this location, following this trajectory at this time.”
Airplane sounds like the most logical explanation… but that is the EASIEST one to verify. Why didn’t they just say which plane was in that area at the time of the recordings/pictures and be done with it?
I suspect it’s because it was hard to pinpoint the actual location of the jet based on the photos. And also, I doubt any news organizations took the time to think about it and then ask air traffic control. The latest I’ve heard is that the flight is thought to have been US Airways 808 from Honolulu to Phoenix.
Pretty sure the FAA has already stated there were no airplanes in the area.
Your contrail theory sounds plausible.
How about the glow coming from the “plane”/”missile” though?
Planes are shiny. 🙂
Are you unequivocally positive it’s not a missile? Plenty of bored billionaires around these days. Got to keep an eye on that Carmack too.
Found your site and I like what I see. Good article. Finally the truth from a rational person. I hate trying to find out who is telling the truth in the news these days. It’s like digging at a archaeological site.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the “mystery missile” was an airplane contrail.”
i am disappointed by your lack of critical thinking. instead of presenting logical ideas, you simply use statements like the one above to declare that your opinion is obviously right. you have not presented a single shred of evidence to support the case that the contrail was not from a missile. instead of addressing the actual issues, you use a technique called “poisoning the well” in which you try to win the debate by discrediting certain sources. maybe you think i should believe that what your saying is true just because you’re a phd candidate and you play with lasers. honestly, if this is the way you plan on writing your doctoral thesis you, maybe you should consider community college instead.
Ken, to me the burden of proof lies with those making the extraordinary claim that this thing was a missile. I presented strong evidence (or at least links to evidence) that an airplane contrail is a plausible and simple explanation. As Carl Sagan famously said: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” I don’t see any extraordinary evidence that this was a missile, but there is a lot of evidence that this was a plane.
Yes, I got snarky, because this was so clearly a non-newsworthy topic that got blown out of proportion because people weren’t willing to take a moment and think. I do not subscribe to the school of thought that two opposing ideas must necessarily be presented as equal when they clearly are not.
The rise of HITLER’s TOP- Secret project failed again. WHY,what caused this so called plane to crash america, was this an acsident and do we have any victims.