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Mysterious vapor trail off California coast raises questions

by Jorge Hernandez on November 10, 2010

Military officials are still unsure of what caused a mysterious condensation trail (contrail) off the coast of California Monday night but they are saying that it most likely was not a missile. The Navy and Air Force confirmed they did not launch a missile, and NORAD and U.S. Northern Command have said that there were no foreign launches, CBS News reports.

The vapor trail captured the country's attention after a local CBS affiliate KCBS news helicopter captured the dubious debris on camera about 35 miles out at sea. Despite the denials by government officials that it was not a missile launch, some experts are not so quick to write off the possibility. In an interview with the Times of London, editor of Jane's Missile's and Rockets Doug Richardson said that he was fairly certain of what it was.

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

Other analysts are not so quick to agree with Richardson's assessment. Physics professor Michio Kaku told viewers on Good Morning America on Wednesday that he believed it could have been caused by a plane. His conclusion comes from the fact that the contrail is in an irregular pattern and that there is no indication that there was an accelerating object. And, although it was spotted by KCBS's chopper, the officials from the Federal Aviation Administration said they did not receive any reports of an object from pilots who were in the area.

The contrail's appearance sparked extensive posturing as to its origin on various social media websites, including speculation as to why the Department of Defense was unaware of a missile being launched off the California coast and theories involving secretive tests.

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