Whidbey Island missile? A vertical streak of light has illuminated the sky above Whidbey Island, which has a naval air station, on Tuesday morning.
The lens of a powerful night camera spotted at 3.56am local time (11.56am GMT) an unidentified object which has the same shape of a missile, above Whidbey, north of Seattle in the US state of Washington.
Greg Johnson of Shunk Bay Weather, the author of the snaps, said: “My night camera picked up what clearly looks like a very large missile launch from Whidbey Island.
“I really wanted more information before I shared this with the public.”
He said to have contacted a number of experts, including Robert Lunsford of the American Meteor Society.
While Mr Lunsford ruled out the object was a meteor, he said he too believed it looked like a missile launch.
Two more experts weighed in with his opinion.
Professor David Shultz, Professor of Synoptic Meteorology from the University of Manchester’s Centre for Atmospheric Science said: “To me, this looks like a launch of some kind.
“I am pretty sure it’s not a meteorological event.”
And Professor Cliff Mass, professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington said: “This feature does not look like a meteor, nor are there any meteor reports for the area that I could find online.
“The lightning networks did not show a strike in that area.
“I have never heard of rocket launches from Whidbey Island Air station in Oak Harbor.
“And checking online, I can not find any discussion of this feature.”
The military has denied any activity related to a missile launch.
Automotive website The Drive said that there was an EC-135T2+ air ambulance helicopter flying exactly in the same spot the mystery object was spotted when the image was taken.
The Drive wrote: “The thing that looks like a rocket at atop a flame would have been a ‘ghost image’ of the part of the helicopter that was exposed from spill-over from its running lights and the low available light in the environment.
“This can look nothing like the actual object as the long exposure and how the light plays on the object can result in strange and often elongated shapes—in this case, something like a ghostly image of a rocket.”
Dr Grant Allen at Manchester University’s Centre for Atmospheric Science is also sceptical.
He said: “There are a few things I can tell from the photo – the light streak appears to pass between two cloud decks – a low-level and a mid-to-higher-level deck – you can see this as the streak appears and disappears behind the low level cloud deck but always appears in the foreground of the higher cloud deck.
“This is not consistent with a vertically ascending missile as such an ascent might be expected to penetrate both cloud decks (very quickly).
“This must be a long exposure photograph/capture as you see a light streak (not an object) and some smearing out of the clouds too.
“To my mind, this is just a brightly lit conventional aircraft of helicopter moving overhead at an altitude above the height of the lower cloud deck but below that of the higher cloud deck.”