Glowing sky plume spotted in California

Just now there was some sort of a weird glowing plume in the southwest sky. Could be some sort of a rocket launch from Vandenberg or something else. Who knows? This was visible in Chico, CA at 5:35 p.m. PST

UPDATE: Dash Cam video demonstrates it clearly was a meteor.

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December 19, 2018 5:54 pm

Reminds me of the trail left by the Challenger disaster.

Reply to  noaaprogrammer
December 19, 2018 6:05 pm

I was wondering if it might be a falling distress flare. Similar to your idea, it looks like something falling out of control. Some of the brightness might be explained if the smoke trail is above the shadow of the Earth, similar to noctilucent clouds.

December 19, 2018 5:57 pm

Also seen in Petaluma:
comment image

Pop Piasa
December 19, 2018 5:57 pm

Looks like Jerry Brown skipped dimensions. 🚀

December 19, 2018 5:59 pm

Thought there had been a Delta IV Heavy launch scheduled for around this time. Perhaps this is a sign of its launch.

Reply to  etudiant
December 19, 2018 6:13 pm

Good thought, etudiant, but the Delta IV heavy rocket launch today around that time was scrubbed:


Reply to  Bob Tisdale
December 20, 2018 12:58 am

No it wasn’t. It launched right on time at 5:35, about 10 min earlier than some thought it was scheduled for.

Reply to  Donald Kasper
December 20, 2018 6:16 am

Um, it got cancelled again. The launch is at 5:31PM today

Pop Piasa
December 19, 2018 5:59 pm

The Soyuz hasn’t entered the atmosphere yet, it just undocked so it can’t be that, thank God.

Reply to  Pop Piasa
December 20, 2018 12:59 am

Vandenburg heavy lift rocket, right on time. Up and away.

Phil R
December 19, 2018 6:03 pm

UFOs’es, gotsta be UFOs’es.

Reply to  Phil R
December 19, 2018 6:41 pm

Of course it is.
Until they are identified, that’s what they’re called…
But it does look like an ascending booster rocket plume. The ice crystals in the plume get illuminated by the setting sun which is over the horizon for us here in CA, but still shining on the ice crystal trail. Differing wind directions and shearing shapes the straight-ish (arcing at altitude) plume into the cork-screw shape we observe from the ground. Whatever the rocket was it appears to be headed south westerly which is consistent with launches from Vandenburg.
My first assumption was teh D-IVH, but as you note it was scrubbed and has also been scrubbed again:

December 19, 2018 6:03 pm

Most likely the distorted remnants of a plane’s vapour trail illuminated by the sun which is below the horizon at ground level.
Have seen similar effects many times but not usually so bright.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
December 19, 2018 6:10 pm

Not likely, as it is seen from both Chico and Petaluma which are 112 miles apart, so the ‘cloud’ must be at great altitude.

Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
December 19, 2018 7:34 pm

Then the suggestion of a meteor burning up is the best suggestion so far. The sudden end of the track would be the point at which the last of the material was consumed.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
December 19, 2018 7:46 pm

Yes. Such meteor trails have been observed many times before.
This one was especially spectacular.

Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
December 20, 2018 5:06 am

It was clearly visible up in Twain Harte too, Couple hundred miles from Chico.

Fred Middleton
Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
December 20, 2018 9:53 am

Altitude wind currents and vapor-debris trail bending in the atmosphere? Where is the first noticeable wind current top down?

Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
December 20, 2018 10:47 am

It was visible from Redding to San Diego. I was waiting for the launch and noticed this bright plume to the west from Mammoth Lakes. Vandenberg is almost due south so I knew it wasn’t connected to the launch.

Brian s
December 19, 2018 6:12 pm

The Delta V rocket launch from Vandenberg was scrubbed tonight due to a hydrogen leak. Could have been a high altitude aircraft to monitor the launch.

Michael Jankowski
December 19, 2018 6:14 pm

I think there were 4 rocket launches scheduled for today…at least a few were cancelled or postponed. Maybe one made it.

December 19, 2018 6:31 pm

USAF tosses ballistic missiles out the back of C-17s to provide more random pop-up targets to test missile interception systems around Hawaii.

December 19, 2018 7:03 pm

NWS in Eureka is saying they believe it is a meteor that burned up in the atmosphere.

Reply to  crosspatch
December 21, 2018 4:02 am

It could be last year’s global warming, late, but it made it.

December 19, 2018 7:08 pm

Report from a credible observer. Said he saw a meteor fireball and saw it disintegrate with the trail left behind it.

December 19, 2018 7:13 pm

My sister saw this as well in Folsom, Ca.

December 19, 2018 7:14 pm

It’s aliens. Good thing I wear my tin foil hat to bed. 🙂

Lou Minati
Reply to  SMC
December 19, 2018 8:22 pm

Guess that wall is gonna have to be higher than we figured.

Reply to  Lou Minati
December 20, 2018 2:39 am

We need a dome. That’ll keep them pesky Canadians out as well.


William deLorimier
December 19, 2018 7:37 pm

They did have a rocket launch scheduled at Vandenberg this evening.

Joe B
December 19, 2018 7:37 pm

If one looks closely just above and to the left of the street light, one can see ‘something’ in the sky.
Over on the Chan’s (8chan), there was a pic thst contained 2 of those ‘somethings’ within fairly close proximity.

Conjecture is all over the place as to what is going on.

William deLorimier
December 19, 2018 7:54 pm

There was a lauch scheduled this evening at Vandenberg Air Base just before 6pm. This must be the plume. They were shooting up a spy satellite so all of you watch what you’re doing. Close the drapes if you are undressing.

December 19, 2018 8:27 pm

I saw it in Auburn. It was very bright.

David Snope
December 19, 2018 8:41 pm

I was waiting for the Delta Heavy launch scheduled at 5:44pm when I saw this plume appear about 10 minutes earlier. Got a few pics of it. It was in the same direction as Vandenberg (NW from my location in Orange County). It looks like a big sparkly firework rocket going up, short-lived and didn’t go very high. I’m very curious what that was. My first guess was that it was a rocket to measure the atmosphere conditions prior to the main launch, but that’s just a guess.

David Snope
December 19, 2018 8:54 pm

r Service in Reno.

“Based upon several videos and reports, it appears as though the bright light in the sky seen at approximately 5:34 PM PST was likely a meteor or space debris entering the upper atmosphere,” the NWS said in a tweet.

The NWS office in the Bay Area drew a similar conclusion on Wednesday night based on the cloud formations caused by the object.

“Still not 100% certain, but evidence is growing the object seen was a meteor. A meteor can create a very high level cloud called a noctilucent cloud,” said the Bay Area’s NWS office in a tweet.

December 19, 2018 9:28 pm

Facebook post of Lick Observatory.

A bright meteor was visible in the skies over the Bay Area shortly after sunset this evening, leaving a bright trail that was visible for many minutes in the western sky. Elinor Gates got a few photos showing how the trail was illuminated by the Sun after sunset and changed shape with the upper level winds in the atmosphere.
Update: From Dr. Peter Jenniskens (SETI) “CAMS@Lick Observatory detected the flash of the meteor at 01:34:48 UTC (17:34:48 PST). At least three flares.”

December 19, 2018 9:54 pm

There is dashcam footage of it – claimed to be a meteor:

December 19, 2018 10:08 pm

SQUIRREL!!-style distraction created by the government so that you don’t notice the nearby chemtrails.

December 19, 2018 11:11 pm

Yikes – lucky it was a smallish meteor.

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
December 20, 2018 12:26 am

Oh no, global warming is clearly causing more meteors and the sky is literally falling. Just wait, a study with models “proving it” will be on the way…

Coeur de Lion
December 20, 2018 12:59 am

It’s just another alien visitation – many more recently as they are worried about what we are doing to our planet.

Reply to  Coeur de Lion
December 20, 2018 12:08 pm

Doubt they’d be worried about what we do to our planet, more likely what we do to ourselves.

December 20, 2018 2:20 am

One tell-tale sign it’s a meteor: there’s a razor thin line that protrudes forward from the fireball for a split second. This is the central remnant from the air burst. It’s typically very short-lived and very thin because it’s only a small remnant. And when it ‘switches off’ it means that remnant has gone into ‘dark flight’ i.e. at a lower speed which doesn’t induce glowing.

James Bull
December 20, 2018 3:39 am

I was going to go for a Unicorn fart which those in the know will be the supper dooper power supply of the future.

James Bull

December 20, 2018 4:33 am

The Dashcam clearly shows that it was a meteor…. A nice bright one.

Joel O'Bryan
December 20, 2018 8:50 am

Thursday evening’s re-scheduled launch for the Delta IV Heavy carrying the NROL-71 mission is scheduled for 5:31 p.m. PST.

December 20, 2018 2:48 pm

By the way, I hope you, your employees, their families and others affected by the fires are managing to piece their lives back together. Wishing you all as Merry a Christmas as is possible in the circumstances.

December 20, 2018 2:51 pm

Test flight by Santa. All elves safe and accounted for 🙂

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