Contrail Mimicking Rocket Launch

May 08, 2010

Contrail mimicking rocket

Photographer: Stefan Pliester
Summary Author: Stefan Pliester; Jim Foster

The photo above showing what at first glance appears to be a rocket launch was taken just after sunset north of Duisburg, Germany. On closer inspection; though, it's not a launch, rather it’s simply a commercial jet airplane flying toward the east with its contrail perpendicular to the horizon. The contrail and the cirrus deck above the western horizon are high enough (above 30,000 ft or 9,144 m) and westward enough to catch the Sun’s lingering rays. Further above the horizon, further to the east, the appearance of the contrail is less remarkable since it’s no longer illuminated by the Sun. Note also the faded vapor trails near the center and top of the photo from jets that passed overhead shortly before this picture was snapped; at 20:52 local time on April 30, 2010.