But the Aliens were Cooler!

Update: The failed launch has been confirmed as a Russian Bulava missile test.

This morning I posted about the Aliens Hypnotizing Norway. Via Spaceweather and Bad Astronomy come some useful updates.

First, there was a navigation warning issued for the area indicating that no one (let me repeat NO ONE) was trying to hide the fact that there was a launch test being performed. Second, another picture has emerged of the event:

The inset clearly shows a perfectly normal launch trail leading up to the more bizarre imagery that we have seen. This white trail has begun to dissipate, with differing winds at different altitudes pushing the trail around until it looks irregularly jagged. Anyone who has seen a successful launch on a clear day will recognize that trail.

At the top of the trail, there is a brighter spot and the trail itself ends abruptly. I suspect this is where the anomaly likely occurred. Having seen this picture, I will revise my earlier statements and say that the upward thrust probably ceased at this point. The remainder of the upward motion was simply from the rocket’s momentum. The blue trail is likely fuel venting from the first stage.

At the end of the blue trail, something changes. It could be that a second stage on the rocket ignited autonomously (most launches are run by an onboard script…you don’t want to have to try to command something that complex by hand), or simply that the torque got too large and created venting as I suggested before. Either way, the rotation had already been imparted to the system. Once there was some sort of thrust (engine firing, massive venting) the spiral started to form.

Anyone who says the system should have fallen to earth at that point needs to play with those spiral fireworks for a little bit. The push given by the tangential thrust may very well have kept the system rotating in what is a nearly stationary position. From some of the images the cloud is obviously three-dimensional. However it is clear that by the time the spiral started, very little of the rocket’s original forward momentum remained.

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11 Responses to “But the Aliens were Cooler!”

  1. I saw a similar effect in San Diego some years ago. It was clearly a missile that had been launched from Vandenberg. It had only one “rotating arm, however.

    The fact is that the only thing rotating was the rocket. The apparent rotation of the white image was caused by missile exhaust moving outward as the body of the missile spun around. It was spinning either because it had been commanded to self-destruct or was spent and burning some remaining fuel out of a deformed exhaust port or it was a two engine missile and only one engine was running.

    It was quite spectacular because it was after sundown where I was while the rocket was still up in bright sunlight. This was never reported in the San Diego papers although in went on for several minutes.

    If you doubt my explanation you can simulate this effect by rapidly spinning a garden hose with a nice stream. You will see that the water moves away from you in a straight line but the pattern of the water appears, to an outside observer, to be a rotating spiral.

    DAW

    • That is precisely the effect I was envisioning. The material moves outward, because it has outward momentum. The central object is the only thing that rotates. Once the central object runs out of material, what has already been ejected continues its outward trek, leaving an ever-widening hole in the middle.

      You still have to wonder where the dead rocket finally landed.

      • What a spectacular series of images and videos. I love that ever-widening hole: the space alien’s white iris parts as his pupil dilates.

        Stunning, just stunning. He sure got an eyeful.

  2. A couple of anomalies in the current explanation:
    1- Have you ever seen a rocket contrail so symmetrical? Such an evenly spaced spiral shape?
    2- It can NOT be leaking rocket fuel on the way up. The Bulava rocket uses solid fuel. It does not leak.
    3- If the large white spiral was created by the rocket motor spinning out of control, wouldn’t you expect the motor to continue in its trajectory? And yet the films show a stationary spiraling event.
    4- The photo of a rocket smoke is not the same event. Did you notice the sunlight? For that much sunlight at this time of the year in Norway it would have to be a couple of hours after the event. (I think) Also, there are no mountains/hills on the horizon.

    Comon’ folks, look at the photos and films and make your own observations. I’m not saying this is an UFO event. I don’t know what it is, and apparently eider does anyone else, and the ones that do know are not talking to us. The ONLY thing we can be sure of is that it is NOT a rocket.

    Let’s get back to looking for clues.

    • spiraaltje, I think all those questions are easily explainable.

      1- Yes, I mentioned I have seen this effect before (I think it was a Pegasus, or perhaps a Taurus). Here, the missile was clearly spiraling out of control and was high enough that it was above the portion of the atmosphere where strong winds can quickly affect the shape of the exhaust trail (this is important for #4).
      2- You are correct. Recall at the time I did not know what sort of launch vehicle we were looking at. It turns out that the blue color is the exhaust from the second stage, which (as you state) uses solid fuel. Again, the spiral pattern shows clearly that there was a stabilization problem on that stage that grew in magnitude over the course of the flight. By the end of the second stage, a large fraction of the thrust was being expended outwardly rather than upwardly.
      3- The start of the white spiral marks the ignition of the third stage. By this point, the rocket is clearly misaligned with the desired thrust axis, a situation probably exacerbated by the staging that happened just prior to third stage ignition. Also, if you look at images from the dissipation of the spiral, you see that the third stage exhaust spreads out in a dome-like shape. The spiral is somewhat stationary, but there is still a bit of forward movement. However, as the motor is completely misaligned with the thrust axis, and is spinning, there is no reason to expect that is going to continue on the planned trajectory. At this point the rocket is clearly lost.
      4- The sunlight is the easiest to explain. This event clearly occurred pretty high in the atmosphere. A fact I mentioned in the initial post, and is reinforced by the stability of the blue spiral as I mentioned in #1. In these pictures you see what looks like the sun is getting ready to rise. Now, this is northern Norway in the winter, so it may not rise for a long time, if it rises at all. But that doesn’t mean that there’s not sunlight at higher altitudes. The time of this event was 8:45am. That means the only reason this wasn’t in full daylight is due to the tilt of the earth casting a shadow on the northern pole during the northern hemisphere’s winter. Once you get just a little ways up in the air, you move out of that shadow and into sunlight. Even passengers on airplanes get high enough to see the sun, and I suspect this event was much higher than the typical commercial airliner.

      And, to answer your un-numbered #5: Yes, we do, in fact, know this was a rocket.

  3. Neat set of explanations Clairdeluna. You are almost there. Could you please post a link to a photo of such a tidy rocket plume as you said you’ve seen? And if the second stage was not the cause of the blue corkscrew, what would it be? The article you post at the end of your response says:
    “”It has been established … that the missile’s first two stages worked as normal, but there was a technical malfunction at the next, third, stage of the trajectory,” a Defense Ministry spokesman said.”
    Thanks.

    • I took a brief look and wasn’t able to spot the video of the launch I am recollecting. However, that launch occurred in broad daylight. So while the behavior of the rocket would have been similar (the tail end of the rocket forming a spiral pattern as it thrust forward), there was no corresponding spiral trail of exhaust because it was essentially the same color as the background sky. While I do believe that the blue spiral is, in fact, the exhaust from the second stage, I am surprised at the assertion that it “worked as normal.” If that is normal, there’s a good reason the Bulava is having trouble launching successfully.

      Each launch is its own, unique event, and there aren’t that many of them. Launch failures are even rarer than launches. So finding a picture that duplicates this effect perfectly is pretty unlikely. What made this failure so spectacular was the combination of HOW it failed (the tangential thrust creating a spiral) with WHERE and WHEN it failed. Being so far north during the winter, we were treated to a fully lighted pair of exhaust plumes against a nearly pitch-black sky. I can’t remember ever having seen that for any other launch. It really was quite a remarkable event.

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