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Mystery 'Missile' Identified As US Airways Flight 808 335

Posted by timothy
from the just-what-they-want-you-to-think dept.
sean.peters writes "The mystery missile discussed on Slashdot Tuesday? It was US Airways 808 from Honolulu to Phoenix. An amateur sleuth checked the time against airline schedules, then the following day, checked out a webcam that was trained in the appropriate direction. He found the exact same contrail at the time AWE808 was coming over. The author deals persuasively with a number of objections to his argument."
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Mystery 'Missile' Identified As US Airways Flight 808

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  • by bmo (77928) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:36PM (#34199676)

    My explanation of "It's another water heater from Mythbusters" was far more entertaining.

    --
    BMO

    • by snookerhog (1835110) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:39PM (#34199710)
      I assumed it was from the same stealth sub that crippled the Carnival cruise liner.
      • Re:I don't care. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:45PM (#34199806) Homepage Journal

        Doug Richardson, the editor of Jane's Missiles and Rockets, examined the video for the Times of London and said he was left with little doubt. [cbsnews.com]

        "It's a solid propellant missile," he told the Times. "You can tell from the efflux [smoke]."

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by icebike (68054)

          Well, Mr Richardson needs to turn in his editor hat and take up fishing.

          Egg, meet Face.

        • Re:I don't care. (Score:5, Informative)

          by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @04:02PM (#34200028)

          Experts are wrong sometimes. While the link in the article is slashdotted, her is a similar one that's pretty persuasive: http://uncinus.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/4/ [wordpress.com] Can your expert tell the difference between an actual aircraft contrail at sunset (taken on Dec 31st last year):

          http://consci.s3.amazonaws.com//skitch/Preview-20100119-154110.jpg [amazonaws.com]

          and what he thinks was a missile:

          http://consci.s3.amazonaws.com//skitch/Mystery_Missile_Launch_Seen_off_Calif._Coast_-_CBS_News-20101109-073423.jpg [amazonaws.com]

          Here is an actual missile launch: http://www.air-and-space.com/20061214%20Camino%20Cielo/_BEL7403%20Delta-II%20NRO%20launch%20l.jpg [air-and-space.com]

          • by Mab_Mass (903149) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @04:47PM (#34200618) Homepage Journal

            Would you please quit using facts and reasonableness to explain things like this? I'm sure that we can find a much less reasonable explanation [youtube.com].

            Now, isn't that more fun?

          • And, sadly enough (Score:5, Informative)

            by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @08:21PM (#34202626)

            Some very reasoned (and funny) commentary on it came from The Daily Show (sad because we shouldn't have to have a comedy show that is better than real news). The CBS chopper filmed the plane for 10 minutes. As Jon Stewart notes ballistic missiles go really fast, like 9,000 miles an hour. That's rather the point of missiles, they go really fast. Even little ones like Sidewinders are extremely high speed but the big ones like SLBMs are just amazingly fast. If they weren't, well they'd be real easy to shoot down, which would kinda eliminate their usefulness. Also there'd be plenty of time to have warning and deal with them.

            If this was a big missile it was the slowest missile in history.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          I've often seen sky trails that look like that - initially. Then, while continuing to watch, it becomes clear that they're just normal airliner contrails - with the planes often becoming visible as they pass by or overhead.

          To me, it's clear that this trail is from over the horizon - spreading as it lingers. Without the advantage of stereo vision (no 3D at that distance), perspective can play interesting tricks.

        • Re:I don't care. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by RetiredMidn (441788) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @04:15PM (#34200204) Homepage

          TFA makes its case by comparing still images of contrails; and the static comparison is compelling. However, Mr. Richardson assessed the motion video of the event.

          Watching the video, I was struck by two things: a light source, which could have been either the flame from a solid-fuel rocket or a reflection off the skin of an airliner, and the fact that there was no separation between the object and the contrail. When I watch airliner contrails (way too much free time on my hands), they usually form some distance behind the aircraft and expand over time; they are not so robust immediately behind the aircraft.

          I dunno; just sayin'...

          • Re:I don't care. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @04:19PM (#34200246)

            I've seen two, very slightly different, angles of the object and the orange light is only present in one of them. Seems to me that a rocket exhaust should be quite visible regardless of the angle, and that it's appearance/disappearance would make a reflection seem more likely. As for the contrail forming right on the object, if it is an airplane most of it's velocity is directly away from the camera. There could be a mile between the contrail and the plane and from that angle it would look like they were right next to each other.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by RetiredMidn (441788)

              I've seen two, very slightly different, angles of the object and the orange light is only present in one of them. Seems to me that a rocket exhaust should be quite visible regardless of the angle, and that it's appearance/disappearance would make a reflection seem more likely. As for the contrail forming right on the object, if it is an airplane most of it's velocity is directly away from the camera. There could be a mile between the contrail and the plane and from that angle it would look like they were right next to each other.

              Actually, I think the aircraft theory is that the airliner was approaching the camera; the flight was eastbound, coming over the western horizon, and the helicopter was over land. Yes, I'm nit-picking. But at a reasonably high azimuth (45 degrees?), you're not really looking head on at an aircraft.

              As for the missile theory, if was pitching over to a westbound trajectory, might not the plume hide the flame from an observer to the east at some point?

              Yeah, I'm straining a bit. Occam's Razor favors the airliner

              • Re:I don't care. (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @05:11PM (#34200870) Homepage Journal

                Occam cannot apply, without a full accounting for all data. You don't use the razor when data may be unavailable due to concealment by an actor.

                • Re:I don't care. (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by peacefinder (469349) <alan.dewitt@noSpAM.gmail.com> on Thursday November 11, 2010 @05:59PM (#34201406) Journal

                  But you do apply the razor when evaluating whether or not someone is actively concealing data.

                  There were hundreds of thousands of digital cameras in range of this event, and there's not one image from another angle that clearly shows a rocket launch instead of an aircraft contrail which has been posted to flickr. Is it simpler to think that all such images have been suppressed, or that there simply never were any?

                  • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                    Fair enough. Definitely enough to get one thinking!

                    Which I believe, ought to be the point of this. Discarding face-value acceptance of statements about military denials, blogger observations, etc.

                    It is important to fully understand that every piece of received information - not directly witnessed - is presented through one or more intermediaries. Each of these MEDIAtors comes with a certain bias: conscious, unconscious, benign or malevolent, veracious or mendacious.

                    Often enough, we reach for the answer t

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Watch this other video of the "event" Clearly an airplane. Zero doubt about it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2UGugR_-gU&feature=related [youtube.com]
          • Re:I don't care. (Score:5, Informative)

            by peacefinder (469349) <alan.dewitt@noSpAM.gmail.com> on Thursday November 11, 2010 @05:53PM (#34201318) Journal

            Regarding the motion, did you notice the rapid acceleration? The staging events? The motor burnout after a couple minutes?

            No?

            Well good, because they weren't there. These are all characteristics of big solid boosters. A shuttle SRB burns for around two minutes with no staging; a Trident for about 170 seconds, with two staging events. Any solid rocket will accelerate rapidly; it has more-or-less constant thrust while the vehicle mass drops quickly as its fuel is expended as exhaust.

            The cameraman said he tracked this object for ten minutes. There is no solid booster anyone knows about that is big enough and slow enough to have been visible to him for that long.

          • You're seeing it very foreshortened, and, yes, they can be very robust right behind the aircraft. For fuck's sake just do a google image search on contrails. This shit is not difficult. You have a vast network at your fingertips!

            Here: A jet with the contrail practically crawling up the engine's exhaust.

            http://www.kadiak.org/joe/contrail.jpg [kadiak.org]

            And here the individual trails merging:

            http://www.lifeonperth.com/uu772contrail.jpg [lifeonperth.com]

            THIS TOOK ME 20 SECONDS!!!!

            I dunno; just sayin'...

            Just stop it already. 20 years ago the geek community would

        • Re:I don't care. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by AbbyNormal (216235) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @04:41PM (#34200548) Homepage

          Experts can get things wrong. Doctors make mistakes all the time, albeit with higher consequences. In anycase, every aviation expert I've talked to said they thought it was a contrail.

        • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @06:19PM (#34201596)

          "It's a solid propellant missile," he told the Times. "You can tell from the efflux [smoke]."

          So this raises the question: Who attached a solid rocket booster to US Airways flight 808, and more ominously, why?

    • by blair1q (305137)

      More entertaining than the possibility that a foreign power had launched a secret missile test from 35 miles off the coast of California?

    • No, they glued pop rocks to a cluster of mentos and put it into a keg of diet coke. I know because I started that myth specifically to see it tested on mythbusters and see if it could start some type of "99 red balloons" scenario.

  • No, no (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:38PM (#34199696)

    He's a part of the conspiracy. It's a cover-up, and I will argue it as such for decades to come. Because that's the only thing that makes sense.

  • Sheesh - already slashdotted?
    • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:44PM (#34199794)
      No. They shut it down because they don't want us to know the truth - Google was ^%$_)&*(

      NO CARRIER
    • Re:Slashdotted? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:47PM (#34199828)

      from blog.bahneman.com:

      [Update: CBS2 in New York has a story about a similar event over NYC November 10]

      I wonder if I'm the first to call it, the reported unexplained missile launch off the coast of California, was US Airways 808.

      I did a lot of extrapolation of what flights could be at the right position (off the coast) at the right altitude (for contrail formation) and came down to two possibilities: UPS flight 902 (UPS902) or US Airways flight 808 (AWE808).

      As I was researching tonight (24 hours later), I realized that today's AWE808 current position (at around 4:50pm) was almost the same as it was the day of the incident. I quickly pulled up a Newport Beach webcam and found tha (apparently) AWE808 was making an identical contrail, 24 hours later!

      Picture 6.png

      Compare the above webcam image to the KCBS footage:

      Picture 12.png

      The comparison is quite clear. A remarkably similar, less-hyped, contrail created by the same flight almost exactly 24 hours later!

      So, based on that, and the flight track of AWE808 24 hours earlier, I believe the mysterious missile off the coast of California on November 8, 2010, was in fact the contrail of US Airways flight 808, a flight originating in Honolulu , HI (PHNL) and ending in Phoenix (KPHX).

      Picture 7.png

      I'm about 80% certain this is the right flight, though UPS902 is still a contender.

      For some additional explanation of this non-event, take a look at the Contrail Science blog.

      Other theories I've seen that explain this:

      * Accidental missile launch
      * Target for Airborne Anti-missle Laser Test
      * Chinese-made Russian-designed ICBM
      * Russian/Korean/American/Chinese "Show of strength" during Obama's tour of Asia
      * Chemtrails
      * Submarine-launched missile
      * F-22

      I respect that people will see what they want to see, particularly when it lines up with their interest. Military missile men will see a missile. Conspiracy fans will see a conspiracy. Military pilots will see an fighter jet. Myself? I'm an aviation photographer who also dabbles in weather and atmospheric phenomena. So I see a commercial airliner and its contrail, however, I also believe that this is an excellent example of Occam's Razor: "the simplest explanation is more likely the correct one."

      There are a number of variables involved here:

      * Altitude, exact time of day, direction and magnification of the KCBS news helicopter footage
      * Direction and field of view of the Newport Beach webcam
      * Exact positions of AWE808 or UPS902 when the video was made

      With those variables nailed down, in conjunction with the sun angle, an expert should be able to pinpoint exactly, the trajectory of the object. Meteor experts extrapolate this kind of information on almost a daily basis in their tracking of meteor or satellite debris entering our atmosphere.

      Some commonly commented concepts

      (My responses to these are my opinion. I'm not a meteorologist or aerospace engineer).

      - The "base" of the contrail is too wide, it should be narrower, like a road as it leads to the distance

      You would naturally make that assumption. However, a contrail, at 39,000 feet is often subject to high winds. Depending on the velocity and direction, it can spread out contrails in a matter of minutes. (These contrails often turn into feathery cirrus clouds.) The contrail created at the distance where it appears to meet the horizon has had sufficient time to spread out with the wind. Remember, the distance as viewed through a zoom lens appears to be shorter due to an optical affect called "foreshortening".

      - The object clearly had a bright, solid rocket-like engine flare

      I attribute this to the sun reflecting off th

  • Maybe the object was his web server lifting off into space?

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:40PM (#34199724)

    Deny deny deny. Obfuscate and confuse the issue. Introduce an alternative theory. Have "independent" expert validate alternative theory. Never admit truth. Wait for public to forget incident.

    It works all the time.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:43PM (#34199776)

      So I'm assuming you'll provide a decent, sane way to falsify your hypothesis? Or are you just going to reject every amount of data as possibly (sorry, I meant obviously) being tainted by THEM and part of your scary scary conspiracy?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Ha! Spoken like a typical spook plant. Your faux-conspiracy theory rant wont get me this time, G-Man!
    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:46PM (#34199822)

      Except that you can verify. You can look up the what time this flight left. You can use a bit of deductive reasoning, a little bit of knowledge about flight paths, and the publicly available Standard Instrument Departures for the given airport to figure out an approximate location and altitude that the plane would be at a given time. You can even, apparently, if the summary is accurate, look back at random webcams that were pointing in the right direction at the right time to see if the plane is there and leaving a contrail.

      So yeah, if you believe that the government can create that good of a cover story with that much independent evidence in a 36 hour period, well, you have more faith in government agencies than I do.

      • by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:50PM (#34199866) Journal

        So yeah, if you believe that the government can create that good of a cover story with that much independent evidence in a 36 hour period, well, you have more faith in government agencies than I do.

        That's the bizarre thing - why did it take 36 hours to get an answer and why didn't the definitive answer come from a definitive source?

        So it was flight 808. Either the DoD and FAA were unable to figure that out in short order or else they just don't care about giving the public answers to those kind of questions.

        Neither one of those possibilities is particularly good.

        • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:57PM (#34199956)

          More likely, the FAA and DoD just aren't organized for this kind of investigation. If you had gotten on the phone with the FAA or an AFB while the thing was in the air and said "What the heck is that? It's tracking heading 270, at somewhere between 20 and 30 thousand feet", you would could have gotten the answer instantly: "identifies as flight 808 out of LA". As it is, it seems like no one was really interested in this until it got put on the news that night, well after it would beyond radar range. So far as I know, the airports and Air Force bases don't keep recordings of their radar tracks, they have no way to look back at what was happening at that time.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Yvan256 (722131)

            So all webmasters all over the world are expected to keep logs of all tiny details and all files requests for months if not years to come from thousands if not millions of visitors per day.

            And the FAA don't keep logs of what happens in radar range?

            Yep, it's a crazy world alright.

          • by Obfuscant (592200) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @04:22PM (#34200288)
            So far as I know, the airports and Air Force bases don't keep recordings of their radar tracks, they have no way to look back at what was happening at that time.

            Air traffic control certainly does keep "tapes" of radar signals. Whether it is really a tape or some other digital recording is irrelevant. These tapes are often used to help locate missing aircraft. After a plane is reported missing they can often "replay the tape" and identify the point of last radar contact, even for non-transpondered or VFR targets.

            This, of course, takes resources and time.

            As for the GP who talks about using "Standard Instrument Depatures" for an airport to locate a plane, ummmm.... A SID for Honolulu (departure airport) will have no relevance to the location of any aircraft by the time it hits the west coast. SIDs apply only close to the airport (<30nm in most cases), until a plane gets onto one of the Victor or Juliette (low level and "jet route" high level) airways.

        • Because the 24/7 news cycle on the cable "news" stations has convinced a lot of you that answers always come instantly, between commercial breaks. In the real world it actually takes time to confirm the facts on the ground...
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ebuck (585470)

          Perhaps the DoD have had a bit too much experience with the public rushing off to some half-baked conclusion, so they ignore the public in events that don't raise their alarms.

          I mean, it's not like the DoD hasn't had to put up with the hundreds of UFO sightings a year that get generated in the USA. If these UFO sightings were just "I couldn't identify it" then perhaps they wouldn't be so dismissive; but, when the sightings are more in line with "What do you mean it's not an INVASION from OUTER SPACE! You'

        • by CannonballHead (842625) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @04:24PM (#34200314)

          It's not bizarre. It depends what you presume.

          Presume the DoD *did* do it. Ok, then they should be able to get an answer out pretty quickly. You know, a cover story or whatever.

          Assume they *didn't* do it. They obviously aren't paying much attention. Nobody on watch called the DoD and said "Hey, just want to let you know, a jet just left a contrail. Thought I'd notify you." So the DoD know they didn't do it, assume it is not a missile, and thus don't care. Why assign someone to look into it? They DID give a public answer, didn't they? Or at least, parts of the armed forces did: they denied it. That's an answer, isn't it? It's not necessarily up to them to investigate, quickly, every single jet contrail that someone says "ahhhh it's a missile launch!"

          So if you presume the DoD didn't do it, then 36 hours isn't bad. Apparently, the media doesn't really care. Afterall, a "it was a jet flying a normal pathway" story isn't going to sell much. On the other hand, a "secret missile test [in broad daylight]" story is a good seller.

          So maybe: the armed forces/DoD/Pentagon didn't do it. The news media don't care because they realize they didn't do it, and a story about a jet taking off isn't very interesting. So it only took 36 hours for a random guy to put all the pieces together and give a good answer.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          So yeah, if you believe that the government can create that good of a cover story with that much independent evidence in a 36 hour period, well, you have more faith in government agencies than I do.

          That's the bizarre thing - why did it take 36 hours to get an answer and why didn't the definitive answer come from a definitive source?

          So it was flight 808. Either the DoD and FAA were unable to figure that out in short order or else they just don't care about giving the public answers to those kind of questions.

          Neither one of those possibilities is particularly good.

          The comments in the original slashdot story had people saying it was the contrail of an airliner. I believe someone even linked to someones blog who had done a lot of leg work and found that it was flight 808 and even compared it to a similar sighting on 2009-12-31. For some reason the news media didn't want to actually investigate this even though all the facts were out there.

      • So yeah, if you believe that the government can create that good of a cover story with that much independent evidence in a 36 hour period, well, you have more faith in government agencies than I do.

        Alternatively, you consider that the government is -so- incompetent that they scheduled a secret missile test right when there would be a plane scheduled to fly along that same trajectory. The missile actually failed to get off the ground, and it just took the government 36 hours to realize it never left and they too were actually looking at a plane.

        After dealing with the DMV, I consider this the most likely explanation.

    • Exactly what incident would you be referring to? The launch of an ICBM 35 miles from LA that almost nobody in LA is an eyewitness to? There is a time to criticize the government for lying to us, but this really is not it...
  • Oops (Score:5, Insightful)

    by falldeaf (968657) <falldeaf AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:41PM (#34199738) Homepage
    I wonder if that UN Ambassador feels silly about his comment that it was probably a display of power aimed at asian nations... Why would the military perform a missile launch to beat their chest then deny that they did it? XD This news is going to be devastating to conspiracy theorists. No wait, denial and facts fuel that fire, nevermind.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Shakrai (717556) *

      Why would the military perform a missile launch to beat their chest then deny that they did it?

      It was to be announced at the next Party Congress. As you know, the Premier loves surprises.

  • Dag-nabbit. (Score:5, Informative)

    by blair1q (305137) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:42PM (#34199756) Journal

    The picture fooled me, too.

    And I ignored myself when I wondered why the plume wasn't all twisted up. Missile trails go through the different layers of atmosphere and pull in different directions. Like this:

    http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2009/09/17/article-1214076-06756E3E000005DC-858_306x438.jpg [dailymail.co.uk]

    • Re:Dag-nabbit. (Score:4, Informative)

      by guru42101 (851700) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:47PM (#34199826)
      Watching the news a few days ago they had a video of it. They're sitting they're talking about how they don't know what it is. I'm watching the video with red and green alternating lights wondering if idiocracy is already here.
      • I'm watching the video with red and green alternating lights wondering if idiocracy is already here.

        That was just sloppy editing.

    • What however I usually find most intresting is the story behind the story.

      Why did it take this long and an amateur to figure it all out? Why wasn't CBS called within minutes of the airing that this was nothing, that aircraft X flying from Y and landing at Z at XX:XX was it, that radar had it on track the whole time and that this flight passes over daily and does pretty much the same thing?

      It shows a kink in the line of communication somewhere that this was cleared up almost immediately. And no, I am not

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by idontgno (624372)

        It shows a kink in the line of communication somewhere that this was cleared up almost immediately. And no, I am not saying the US military HAS to answer every question, but when a story breaks out like this and reaches around the globe, the military should have a better answer then "we don't what it is, we are fairly certain it wasn't our missle, but what it was, we don't know".

        It took the Air Force 18 years to tell itself and its commanders that UFOs were just optical illusions and weather balloons. An

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Not always I can tell you that a shuttle launch looks a lot like that was shown. ICBM test flights and Probably SLBM test flights will often corkscrew early in flight to eat up some range.
      What no one is getting is that this almost as worrisome as if it was a missile.
      That plane was coming into the US from from the Pacific Ocean. It crossed into US airspace from outside US airspace. Yes I know that Hawaii is part of the US but our airspace doesn't extend the entire distance.
      So why did it take the DOD and FAA

      • Re:Dag-nabbit. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @04:22PM (#34200294)

        Depends on what you mean by air defense. If you mean an automated system that can shoot down ballistic missiles then no. There has been work on that off and on, that's what the whole "Star Wars" project is/was. However nothing operational at this point, or at least nothing that is admitted to (and that is the kind of system where publicly admitting it is useful).

        In terms of defense against air attacks? Yes, tons. The US has a bunch of air bases all around its borders. The Air Force and Air National Guard operated bases in most states with fighters (F-16s and F-22s mostly) to deal with threats. In terms of tracking incoming craft, that is done on a continuous basis by massive radar installations. The PAVE PAWS radar arrays provide complete coverage of the US borders out to very long distances (like 3000km). All inbound craft are tracked and known.

        So what's the deal here? Well the deal is nothing happened, that's what. There was nothing out of the ordinary so nobody noticed anything. All commercial flights are well known. They file flight plans, keep ground controllers appraised of their progress, and show up on civilian radar. See the radar you get at airports actually isn't normal radar. It doesn't track any object in the sky, it is Secondary Surveillance Radar. Rather what it is doing is looking for transponders. All commercial and private planes have to have one that say who they are. So what happens, more or less, is the radar says "Hi who are you?" and the plane responds "This is my callsign." Works great and makes tracking much easier, you don't have to have someone analyze the radar signals to tell if they are real returns or not (radar can get returns off of birds, air currents, etc if the power is high enough) and you can keep easy track of what everything is.

        A plane that has an active transponder and a known flight plan is nothing out of the ordinary. There are thousands a day. So nobody takes any notice, that is shit working how it should. So when the military was asked "Did you do this?" they truthfully answered "No we didn't." When the FAA was asked "Did you see anything weird?" they again truthfully said "No we didn't." Because neither had seen anything weird, no evidence of any problems, they didn't go digging. The military isn't going to go all crazy because there is a picture of a contrail. The PAVE PAWS in Beale didn't see anything problematic, who gives a shit?

        I am guessing IUSS was also clear of any unknown subs and so on.

        Nobody noticed anything because there was nothing to notice, except visually, and neither the DOD or FAA check that because it isn't useful. Everything in terms of monitoring was fine. They may have opened an inquiry in to what happened so they could give people an answer, but that can take time since it isn't high priority and you want to give a correct answer. Or they may have just not given a shit since it was clearly just someone who'd snapped a picture of a jet and didn't know what it was. They knew it was NOT a missile as that would have been tracked.

        • by EdIII (1114411) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @05:16PM (#34200916)

          Reading your well articulated post has had a quite calming affect. Your logical and reasoned argument is beginning melt away the conspiracy theory tension in my shoulders... and I think it is lowering my blood pressure.

          I don't like it. Get the fuck out of here :)

    • Re:Dag-nabbit. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwaterNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday November 11, 2010 @04:28PM (#34200378) Homepage

      The picture fooled me, too.

      Didn't fool me for a second - because it looked pretty much like a contrail and exactly nothing like a rocket launch.
       
      What we have here is a classic case of sensationalism and the power of suggestion and preconceived notions over common sense and stopping to think. The news said it was a missile - and a lot of people became convinced it was a missile rather than asking themselves whether the news was right or not. Even a lot of otherwise intelligent people went along with that conclusion because it agreed with their anti-government/pro-government-conspiracy beliefs.

  • by h00manist (800926) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:43PM (#34199784) Journal
    Why? Simple. It's more fun that way. There is NO excitement in the version saying it's a damned routine flight. That version is a national security threat. Millions of people will die as a result. Of boredom.

    Therefore, it was a missile. Chinese. Communist party. War tensions abound. Obama is negotiating terms with Hu Jintao at this very moment, supposedly over the econonomic issues. Saving millions, billions even! from certain death.
  • by MrEricSir (398214) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:44PM (#34199798) Homepage

    It's gotta be a weather balloon that just happens to be shaped like a missile.

  • Didn't this appear to rise from the Pacific? How would a plane, flying high over the Pacific and heading to Phoenix, produce a contrail that rises from the Pacific heading west?
  • I am very interested if he addresses the apparently single contrail, most airliners I see have distinct trails per engine or at least per wing.
  • We still can't identify a regular commercial airplane flight.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by John Hasler (414242)

      I assume that by "we" you mean CBS news.

      • If indeed this was just a commercial flight, as it seems to be, the whole reason nobody noticed is BECAUSE it was just a regular commercial flight. Those what two things that make them of no interest:

        1) A filed flight plan. They tell ground controllers where they are going and when. That means that their appearance there is nothing to worry about, and barely anything to take note of. You only take note if they AREN'T there.

        2) A transponder. Civilian radar doesn't detect objects by direct radar returns, it d

    • I don't think "handheld camera" qualifies as "all our technology."

  • ...the hell I won't.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Missiles move a lot faster than that. Looking at ICBM speeds [wikipedia.org] it appears that they typically move their first 150km to 400km at 7km/s and the last 100km at up to 4km/s. The longest phase (the intercontinental part) is claimed to be typically about 25 minutes, which is also obviously damn fast.

    Now, you can give or take there but the guy who originally shot the video said that he looked at it for about 10 minutes. Using any of those speeds, 10 minutes would be 4200km, 2400km or about half of a flight from one

  • Plane Finder (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fartypants (120104) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:53PM (#34199912)

    I was going to say this would been much easier if the Plane Finder AR iphone and android app wasn't labeled "an aid to terrorists" [techdirt.com] and removed from app stores, but it looks like you can still get it [pinkfroot.com]. There's a web version too at www.planefinder.net

  • Isn't anyone else bothered that the military couldn't identify it?

  • by JoelWink (1846354) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:55PM (#34199926)
    I think one aspect of this story that hasn't been mentioned is the fact that daylight savings time kicked in the previous day. So, let's say this is a regular weekday flight that arrives in Phoenix in the early evening. After the November 7th "fall back" daylight savings time change, this flight, which may have passed over L.A. in bright daylight on Friday November 5th, is now illuminated on Monday November 8th with dramatic dusk lighting, resulting in a very different looking contrail.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:55PM (#34199936) Journal
    All those big name news outfits, CBS or FOX or what not, they are in the business of selling ad time. Digging and finding the truth costs money and produces uninteresting information. "Was there a mystery missile? Film at 11" collects eye-balls and sells ads. The amateur on the other hand does not have any incentive to hype the mystery and in fact has an incentive to debunk the myth. So he got it. Way to go.

    Wish there are more such amateurs tracking the money and misinformation spread by everyone about politics.

  • Head over to Jon Stewart. His coverage is, as always, hilarious. The guy who saw it followed it for ten minutes. Do the math: 10 minutes x Mach 4 =...
    • Once again, leave it up to Comedy Central's fake news show to get the facts right, while all of the other cable "news" outlets ran with sensationalism.
  • It's a streetlight!

    Oh wait, wrong website.

  • The Truth (Score:3, Funny)

    by Kaenneth (82978) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @05:11PM (#34200872) Homepage Journal

    It's ghouls, I tell you. Religious ghouls in rockets, looking for a land to call their own.

    Don't you laugh at me! I know a spell that'll make you show your true form! A cave rat taught it to me.

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