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   Undertoad  Saturday Sep 21 11:08 AM

9/21/2002: Minuteman trail

This was such a good image that both NBN and Doc saw fit to send it to me. This version is the larger of the two news images they sent along. It's the trail of a Minuteman III rocket, shot from the Vandenberg Air Force Base, and photographed over the San Fernando Valley.

War is hell, but the technology of war is sometimes really cool.

NateXLH1000  Monday Sep 23 12:18 AM


Why is the contrail all over the place?

what was it chasing?

Nic Name  Monday Sep 23 12:36 AM

I suppose the contrail was relatively straight before the wind dissipated it.

hermit22  Monday Sep 23 11:37 AM

I saw that thing go up from my perch in the Inland Empire. You could literally see it cut the sky in two.

It was quite frightening, actually.

goethean  Monday Sep 23 12:19 PM


perth  Monday Sep 23 12:47 PM

he meant literally in a figurative sense. in this case i mean firguratively in a literal sense.

Nic Name  Monday Sep 23 12:50 PM

Main Entry:
Pronunciation: 'li-t&-r&-lE, 'li-tr&-lE, 'li-t&r-lE
Function: adverb
Date: 1533
1 : in a literal sense or manner : ACTUALLY
2 : in effect : VIRTUALLY
usage Since some people take sense 2 to be the opposite of sense 1, it has been frequently criticized as a misuse. Instead, the use is pure hyperbole intended to gain emphasis, but it often appears in contexts where no additional emphasis is necessary.

doc  Monday Sep 23 01:05 PM

My guess is that the vortices from the missile are causing the particles to form a spiral-like pattern.

arz  Monday Sep 23 02:10 PM

Winds Aloft

I saw this one in mid-flight from north San Diego county. I've seen dozens of these over the years (I'm a life-long Southern Cal resident).

The contrails almost always have some "kinkiness" to them and it's invariably from differing wind velocities at altitude.

These clear-sky sunset launches are always spectacular and this photo proves it.

lhand  Monday Sep 23 03:57 PM

What a sight

I live in Lancaster, CA--moved there last year. I saw this as I was getting in my pool. It was late enough that the stars were out. At first I thought there was a crane in the street behind my house being lit by the streetlight. It was straight, white at the top and orange lower down. As I watched it got longer and there was a burst of light (as the second or third stage ignited I now realize).

I climbed out of the pool and walked over to the block wall at the back of my yard and realized that it was a lot farther than I first thought. I finally figured out it was a missle. I looked for a burning plane (maybe they shot down a plane?) or something the missle was being shot at. I still didn't realize it was 150 miles away! Over the next several minutes the trail began to be distorted by the wind and it looked like the picture about 10 minutes after the launch.

My wife called the police--they had no idea, but had lots of calls to the station. Nothing on the news. It wasn't until the next day I heard what it was: a Minuteman III launched from Vandenburg Air Force Base at a target in the Marshall Islands. They usually launch between 1 and 4 AM. They launched early because the weather was so good.

The coloring is because the trail is so high that it is lit by sunlight. The change in color is because of the change in altitude and the sun's angle. It was still sunny at the top and dusk at the middle of the trail. I wish I'd thought to get some pictures on that crystal clear night. :-(

Still, it was a little scary during this time of "High Terrorist Alert." At least now I have the Vandenburg launch page bookmarked ( so I can watch out for the next one (in December).

perth  Thursday Sep 26 08:22 AM

this is todays APOD, which means its available in high-res!


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