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
|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.