|Occurred : 9/19/2002 19:35 (Entered as : 09/19/02 19:35)
Reported: 9/19/2002 9:00:17 PM 21:00
Location: Santa Clara, CA
|UNKNOWN SPACE DEBRIS TRAVELING NORTH WITH A VERY LARGE CONE SHAPE VAPOR TRAIL
ON 9/19/02, AT APPROX 1935 HRS, THE SUN WAS DOWN BEYOND THE HORIZON AND THE SKY WAS A LIGHT BLUE TURNING TO NIGHT. I HAPPENED TO LOOK UP AND SAW A VERY BRIGHT WHITE VAPOR TRAIL WITH A BRIGHT WHITE HOT SPHERE LEADING THE WAY AND TRAVELING DUE NORTH. I COULD TELL THAT THE SPHERE WAS SLOWING DOWN AND A HUGE WHITE CONE SHAPE VAPOR BEGAN TO EMINATE FRON THE SPHERE. THE SPHERE SLOWED TO A STOP AND DISAPPEARED. THERE WAS NO SOUND ASSOCIATED WITH THIS INCIDENT. THE WHITE VAPOR TRAIL REMAINED FOR SEVERAL MINUTES. THIS SIGHTING WAS EXTREMELY BEAUTIFUL ESPECIALLY SEEING THE CONE VAPOR TRAIL. MY IMPRESSION IS THAT THIS WAS SPACE DEBRIS BECAUSE I HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS TYPE OF DISPLAY FROM A METORITE.
((NUFORC Note: Missile launch from Vandenberg AFB. Please see article. PD))
((BEGIN ASSOCIATED PRESS ARTICLE ABOUT LAUNCH))
Air Force Test Missile Out West
Fri Sep 20, 1:25 AM ET
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) - An Air Force missile test Thursday provided a spectacular light show seen over California and much of the West, as far away as Utah and New Mexico.
The colorful contrail was seen soon after the unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile blasted off at 7:36 p.m. from an underground silo at the Vandenberg military base north of Santa Barbara.
"The smoke went up in spirals as the sun was setting and turned into an orange, amber color. It was like a flower going into bloom pretty quickly," said Simon Cox, who saw it from a restaurant terrace in Santa Barbara.
The missile traveled about 4,200 miles in about 30 minutes, striking a predetermined target at the Kwajalein Missile Range in the western chain of the Marshall Islands, the Air Force said.
Vandenberg spokeswoman Kelly Gabel said clear conditions were responsible for the spectacular light show.
"We do this two or three times a year, but because the weather was so perfect we decided to launch it early," Gabel said. As a result, people were still awake to see it, and although the sun had set, sunlight below the horizon glinted off unspent fuel particles and water droplets.
"Suddenly we're getting calls from people as far away as New Mexico who saw it and want to know what it is," Gabel said.
The mission was directed by the 576th Flight Test Squadron at Vandenberg and the 341th Space Wing and the 341st Space Wing, from Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.
The purpose was to test launch systems and the missile's accuracy and reliability.
((END ARTICLE BY ASSOCIATED PRESS))