All photos were taken 120 miles from Vandenberg AFB from the Angeles Forest
north of the San Fernando Valley.
Minuteman III launch test on 09-19-2002
Minuteman II launch Intercept test on 03-15-2002
Minuteman II launch Intercept test on 07-14-2001
Minuteman II launch on 07-07-2002
Minuteman II launch on 10-02-1999
Minuteman II launch on 06-23-1997
A “twilight phenomenon” is created when unburned missile propellant particles and water left in the wake of an intercontinental ballistic missile or space booster freeze in the lese dense upper atmosphere. These frozen fragments reflect the high altitude sunlight, typically producing a green, blue, white and rose-colored luminescence.
Although this brilliant effect may also feature some corkscrew shape clouds, no two instances have looked exactly alike. Any single instances of the phenomenon may appear differently to different observers, depending on the location from which they view it.
The most brilliant instances of the phenomenon have happened between 30 and 60 minutes after sunset or before sunrise. For conditions to be “right,” skies must be clear over the area, the sun must be below the horizon and the sky must be dark. As the missile rises out of the darkness into the sunlight, a twilight phenomenon may result.
Vandenberg AFB has launched more than 1,800 missiles and space boosters since December 1958 and only a small number of these launches have created twilight phenomenon. Some observers have assumed-incorrectly that the missiles creating the aerial spectacle must have malfunctioned. This belief stems from the appearance of the missile’s contrail when it becomes twisted into giant white pretzel shapes by the high altitude air currents.
No malfunctioning missile has ever created
the phenomenon. On the rare occasions when a missile does malfunction,
it’s destroyed by the range safety officer before reaching the altitude
at which twilight phenomenon occurs.