A missile-like streak appears in the sky yesterday to the west of the Rockaways, much like the still-unexplained mystery Monday off California.
The local resident said it didn’t resemble the usual contrails left by planes from nearby Kennedy Airport.
The Pentagon closed the case on Monday’s incident off the California coast by announcing yesterday that it was just an optical illusion that made a plane look like a missile.
The distorted angle of videotape of it taken by a TV news helicopter led to the confusion, military officials said in Washington.
All other explanations have been ruled out after a 36-hour investigation, they said.
“There is no evidence to suggest that this is anything else other than a condensation trail from an aircraft,” said Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan.
Although conspiracy theories and UFO claims flooded the blogosphere, several scientists said there was little doubt the trail, which appeared near Santa Catalina Island, was caused by a plane.
They said the video indicated the object changed direction and flew at a constant speed, which a rocket-launched missile wouldn’t do. Missiles accelerate as they soar into the sky, they said.
But Doug Richardson, editor of Jane’s Missiles and Rockets magazine, said he was certain it was “a solid-propellant missile.”
“You can tell from the efflux” or smoke in the vapor, he told The Times of London.
Another theory that went viral Tuesday was that it was a super-secret project of the US military, such as a next-generation spy satellite. But critics pointed out that launching it just 35 miles from the nation’s second-biggest city at sundown was a bad way to keep it confidential.
Adding to the confusion, the Pentagon, Navy, Air Force, Federal Aviation Administration, Coast Guard and North American Aerospace Defense Command each said Tuesday that they had investigated the sighting but couldn’t explain what it was.
Robert Ellsworth, a former deputy defense secretary, called it “a big missile” that “takes the people’s breath away.” The KCBS cameraman who captured the image, Gil Leyvas, said it sure looked to him like an incoming missile. “I saw a big plume coming up, rising from . . . beyond the horizon and it continued to grow.”
Leyvas said he zoomed his camera in and kept it on the vapor trail for roughly 10 minutes. “It was unique. It was moving. It was growing in the sky.”