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   Rocket Trails
  Rocket trail high over Arizona imaged from Tucson April 14, '06 by Robert Koch. The trail was made by a Minotaur solid fuelled rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California 580 miles to the west.   High altitude winds contort the trail and its small exhaust particles diffract sunlight into vivid iridescent colours. Image ©Robert Koch, shown with permission.

Rocket exhaust trails extend high into the stratosphere and mesosphere. They are high enough to remain in sunlit long after the sun has set at ground level.

To diffract sunlight and produce the vivid iridescence, the particles or droplets must have similar sizes and be at least several micron across.

High altitude winds deform and twist the trails and carry them long distances. The trail below was 1300 miles from the launch.
Seen from near Oklahoma City by Terry Schwarz on 19th October '05, these clouds were the remains of a Titan IV launch from Vandenberg AFB 1300 miles away. Image ©Terry Schwarz, shown with permission.