The US military has so far been unable to explain an apparent missile vapour trail about 56 km off the coast of California and is still trying to determine its cause, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday.
A KCBS television helicopter caught the unmistakable contrail on camera as it arced into the evening sky west of Los Angeles on Monday night, sparking reports of a missile launch.
Colonel David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said so far none of the military or Department of Defense (DOD) agencies that might have launched a missile “have come up and said they were involved in this.”
“So we’re still trying to find out what the contrail off the coast of southern California was caused by,” he said. “Right now, all indications are that it was not a DOD activity.”
NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense command that tracks missile launches worldwide, said it was looking into the reports but was unable to provide “specific details.”
“We can confirm that there is no indication of any threat to our nation and we will provide more information as it becomes available,” the command said in a statement.
ContrailScience.com, a website that debunks conspiracy theories linked to contrails, suggested the sighting was an optical illusion.
It said a contrail streaming horizontally from the exhaust of an approaching aircraft can look like a vertical missile shot if the end of the plume is hidden by the curvature of the earth.
It’s a plume that evoke Space Shuttle launches and ICBMs, and it’s right off the coast of a major city. This initial feeling, and the contrail’s outward dissimilarities with cloud and contrail formations usually seen from the ground, have led many news organizations to assume that it was left by some kind of rocket or missile, leading them to speculate further about accidental launches, secret weapons tests, or worse.
Pentagon officials say they cannot explain reports of a missile launch off the coast of California on Monday.
“Right now all indications are that it was not [defence department] involvement in this launch” Pentagon spokesman Col David Lapan said.
The Pentagon does not consider the missile a threat.
Under normal circumstances, the launch of a US missile would require several different authorisations and notifications, but none are evident.
According to the FAA, the FAA didn’t receive reports of any unusual sightings from pilots nor did they pick up the ‘fast moving object’ on their radars.
Speculation from former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Ellsworth, who believes the mystery object was a ‘large missile’, the missile could have been an intercontinental ballistic missile fired from a U.S Navy submarine.
Press release has attracted more attention when the local news station said, Navy and Air Force officials that they did not launch a rocket Monday night.
U.S. Northern Command said it was investigating. They say it was not running Monday night from Vandenberg Air Force Base which is a regular point of launch to the missile tests.
“NORAD and USNORTHCOM are aware of unexplained inversion reported off the coast of Southern California Monday night”, the agency said in a statement. “At the moment, we can not provide specific details, but we are working to determine the exact nature of this event. We can confirm that there is no indication of any threat to our country and we will provide additional information as it becomes available.”
The missile appeared to have been launched at sea, which prompted speculation that it had been launched by a US Navy vessel.
However, Navy officials contacted by local news stations said they were unaware of a missile launch in that area. A Navy official said they were still looking into the report, but, a preliminary check indicated it was not a Navy asset.
Governmental officials confirm the entity behind the missile mystery is still unsolved; but two new answers are revealed midday Tuesday.
First, the missile came from U.S. waters, not U.S. soils. The missile was launched from the Pacific Ocean, roughly 35 miles off the coast.
Second, the missile did not come from a foreign entity. Officials would not tell local news how they have determined that. But they are now confirming it was deployed from a U.S. entity, north of Catalina Island.
Third, officials have yet to rule if the launch was accidental or intentional, but do confirm it was not scheduled.
They have not ruled out a U.S. submarine or a surface ship.