Seeing this silently rise over the horizon would freak me out, too.
Credit: The photographer wishes to remain anonymous.
Imagine you’re on an island paradise, staying up very late and enjoying your view of the dark sky on a warm predawn morning. Suddenly, your reverie is interrupted by a bizarre and frankly eerie sight: Rising over the horizon is a huge circle of light, a glowing smoke ring that gets bigger as it moves silently across the starry vault. After several minutes, growing the whole time, it finally dips below the far horizon, leaving you stunned and wondering if you’ve lost your mind.
Last week, I got two emails from two different people describing just this sort of event. I knew what they were telling me was real … but not because the two reports were independent of one another and not because one of them sent me the amazing picture displayed above.
Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!
I knew it was real because I knew right away what event they were describing. I’ve heard these stories before. Once was in 2009 when such an event freaked out people all over Norway, and two have been seen in recent years over Hawaii—one in 2011 and another in 2013.
Hawaii, you say? The folks who sent me the emails were both on the Haleakala volcano on the Hawaiian island of Maui. And both saw the halo around 04:30 local time on Tuesday morning, Sept. 23.
Aha! They had just seen a suborbital missile on its way across the planet after a test launch.
That’s what was seen from the same area in 2011 and 2013. A Minuteman III ICBM was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and while it’s in space the third stage performs a fuel dump. When the material is released, it expands as a spherical shell in the near-vacuum of space, and looks very much like an expanding, glowing soap bubble. It also moves rapidly across the sky, since it maintains the momentum of the rocket itself moving at several kilometers per second. REST OF STORY CLICK HERE…