Each angel on the Ouray County Cares Angel Tree at the Ridgway Library contains a gift wish list from a child or family in need in Ouray County. Unwrapped gifts should be returned to any of tree locations by Dec. 16. Plaindealer photo by Bill Tiedje Read more...
|Was it a bird, a plane, or a missile test?|
|Written by Administrator|
|Friday, 14 September 2012 20:57|
By Caleb Stento
No, the Martians are not coming. At least they didn’t come Thursday morning when a spectacular celestial event was witnessed in many locations throughout the southwestern portion of the United States.
The show was put on by a trio of missiles launched during a test. An unarmed Juno missile was launched from Ft. Wingate in New Mexico and two PAC 3 (Patriot Advanced Capabilities) missiles were subsequently launched from the White Sands Missile Range test facility to intercept it. The two bases are just over two-hundred miles apart, as the crow flies. Conditions were just right and the contrail from the Juno formed a brilliantly lit, twisting cloud-like formation. The event prompted a flood of calls and e-mails to local and national authorities wondering what they had just witnessed.
According to Ouray County Sheriff, Junior Mattivi, initial speculation was that a plane had gone down. After talking with dispatch, Mattivi was informed of the missile test and issued a WENS notification.
White Sands spokesperson Cammy Montoya said the conditions were just right to create a widely visible show. Calls and e-mails came in from locations as far away as Palmdale, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and parts of Southern Colorado.
“This (the missile test) went off without a hitch yesterday. It was a fluke, really that the sun was coming off of the horizon on to the contrails and the winds that blew it into the zig-zaggy shape. We obviously didn’t know that was going to happen. There’s no way to predict that,” Montoya said. “It could be just a white contrail in the sky like when a commercial airline goes across. I’ve worked here eight years and it’s never been like that.”
Montoya explained that a lot of effort is put into performing one of these “high-level” tests. Because of this, the tests are not performed very often – only 14 since 1998. It’s appropriately called high-level because of the altitude reached by the projectiles. Specifics are classified, but they “get pretty darn high,” Montoya said.
“It takes a lot of coordination from so many entities. We coordinate with different state police agencies and even local chambers of commerce. It’s not just from white Sands missile range, but all the folks we partner with for safety issues,” Montoya said.
Planning for these tests goes so far as to calculate where any debris will land. When the first-stage booster from the Juno was dropped, it landed in a dedicated area in the Cebolla National Forest in New Mexico. The rest of the debris fell on the White Sands Range.
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