Trident test-shot startles West Coast Americans
This great big light in the sky is classified
Video The US Navy has challenged Orson Welles in the UFO-panic stakes: an un-announced (and thankfully unarmed) Trident missile test over the weekend caught citizens by surprise and sparked a YouTube frenzy.
The brasshats decided to launch the missile from an Ohio-class submarine, and while they prudently set up a no-fly zone in the test area, the secrecy reflex meant nobody knew what to expect.
According to Slate's Bad Astronomer Phil Plait, the launch was visible all the way from Northern California to Nevada and Arizona.
With such a large potential audience and a lack of information, it's not surprising that for a while, speculation added "UFO" to people wondering if they were seeing a meteor explosion. In the literal sense, it was unidentified, until the Navy explained what was going on.
Because Trident is a shot-stage rocket, it uses a shot of explosive to give an expired stage a kick away while the next stage's rockets fire. The separation explosion gave lucky viewers quite a light-show. The explosion starts shortly after 1:22 in this video (by Julien Solomita, posted to YouTube):
A Navy spokesperson told San Diego Union Tribune the missile was fired in the Pacific Test Range, noting that tests are classified prior to launch.
Until the explanation, however, the launch provided plenty of material for UFO-fans. ®