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Flagstaff, AZ

Sighted on Thursday 19. September 2002
Reported on
Shape: | Duration: 10 minutes
Source:

First a beacon of light like Venus then fading as if through clouds and then a cone of light remaining for many minutesWhile driving west on State Highway 180 two miles from downtown Flagstaff I noticed a bright solid light 5 degrees above the horizon. I mistook it for the planet Venus. It seemed that the light was shining through clouds or fog. The brilliant light faded but a cone of light remained looking exactly like the sky does when the full Moon is about to rise. In fact, for a moment I thought the cone of light which radiated about 10 degrees above the horizon was the full Moon. Naturally the near full Moon was rising directly behind me in the East about 10 degrees above the eastern horizon. Also about 15 degrees due south on the horizon the planet Venus shown like a beacon. The light I saw and the resulting cone or mountain shaped light was not the Moon or Venus. I wonder if it was a rocket launch or something... the light remained in the western sky for 10 minutes before I left the scene where I had parked my car to observe this highly unusual light. The weather conditions were thus: No clouds, crystal clear skies and certainly no fog.Peter, any idea?((NUFORC Note: Missile launch from Vandenberg AFB. Please see article. PD))((BEGIN ASSOCIATED PRESS ARTICLE ABOUT LAUNCH))Air Force Test Missile Out WestFri Sep 20, 1:25 AM ETVANDENBERG 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))

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