Mystery Contrail Off California Coast

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Military is scrambling to find out what was seen in skies over Los Angeles last night after a local CBS news helicopter captured video that appears to show a major missile or rocket launch from the Pacific Ocean just north of Santa Catalina Island.

The video shows an enormous condensation trail following a brightly lit object, similar to images seen during a space launch.

Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters the video is so far “unexplained” by anyone in the U.S. Military. The military is examining the video provided by KCBS news and officials say they hope to have answers soon.

The Missile Defense Agency told Fox News it did not launch any test missile last night that could explain the dramatic images. The Navy and the Air Force were also unable to offer an explanation.

“It does not appear that this was a regularly scheduled missile test,” Lapan said. “Before a missile test the military sends notifications to mariners, airmen, and air traffic controllers to stay clear of the area,” and according to Lapan it doesn’t appear those warnings were sent.

The FAA told Fox News it did not issue any license for a commercial launch. NASA also denied any involvement and said it is checking for meteorite activity, although it’s highly unlikely that is the source of these images.

John Cornelio, a spokesman for Northern Command and NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) told Fox News Tuesday there is no threat to the homeland. “We are very confident this was not fired from a foreign military,” Cornelio said. “That’s not what we are working with.”

Cornelio also cautioned the use of the term missile, saying that word suggests the launch of a weapon, which can’t be confirmed.

“If it was an attack we would have known it and we would have done something about it,” Cornelio said. Military officials wouldn’t rule out the chance it was an accidental launch.

Although the former commander of the 6th Fleet, retired Vice Adm. John Stufflebeem, says it’s highly unlikely this was an accident by the military. “I just can’t conceived of an example where it could just be done by sheer accident,” Stufflebeem said. There’s never just a one man push the button operation. There are always at least a couple of people involved as a fail-safe.”

Adm. Stufflebeem suggested this could have come from a smaller, amateur rocket, saying people need to consider the chance this large plume was an optical illusion caused by weather conditions.

“Atmospherics could very well be at play.” Stufflebeem said. He said it’s possible the plumes behind the object could have been exaggerated due to a higher level of condensation in the air. He also said that because the video was shot silhouetted against a setting sun, the condensation trail could have appeared “amplified.”

Speaking as an experienced Naval aviator who has been fired at by surface-to-air missiles, Adm. Stufflebeem’s best guess is that this was done by a private citizen. “I would call it the private rocketeer,” Stufflebeem said. “It could be somebody that was interested either as a backyard hobbyist, or somebody who was earnestly wanting to get into the business of getting into space flight.”

Facilities capable of launching a missile in the region include Naval Air Station Point Mugu, Vandenberg Air Force Base, or Naval Auxiliary Station San Nicolas. At sea it could have come from a U.S. submarine or a surface ship. But so far, it all remains a mystery.

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