Mystery Missile Explained

September 13, 2012

Southern Colorado was caught up in confusion today after an unexpected vapor trail was spotted in Saguache County. As KRCC’s Katherine-Claire O’Connor reports, nothing actually ever landed in Colorado.

Colorado State Patrol says a hunter near Del Norte first spotted and reported what he believed was a plane crash. The US Army operated White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico later confirmed the contrail seen by the hunter was part of a weapons test. Debris from it landed on base land. White Sands spokeswoman Monte Marlin says morning conditions were just bright enough to offer a glimpse of the operation.


…It captured the light. Illuminated the contrail. There are ice crystals as it goes through the layers of the atmosphere. And it catches those ice crystals which kind of act like little prisms and created a very sparkly show.

Marlin says the range has conducted 14 similar weapons tests since 1998, and they regularly work with the FAA and local governments to avoid potential confusion. The high altitude test was also visible in Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.