On Saturday at about 6 p.m., law enforcement and media outlets were flooded with calls reporting a mysterious light streaking across the Southern California sky, making some suspect nuclear war, an unexpected comet, or even an alien invasion.
But the light was none of these things, a Navy spokesman told The San Diego Union-Tribune. Cmdr. Ryan Perry with the Navy’s Third Fleet told the Union-Tribune that the light can be attributed to a routine, unarmed Trident missile test-fire by the Navy.
“The tests were a part of a scheduled, ongoing system evaluation test,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “Launches are conducted on a frequent, recurring basis to ensure the continued reliability of they system. Each test activity provides valuable information about our systems, thus contributing to assurance in our capabilities.”
The Trident II (D5) missile test was conducted from the USS Kentucky, a ballistic missile submarine in the Pacific Test Range, off the Southern California coast.
And the Navy says all missile tests are unexpected to the public because information regarding test launches is classified prior to testing.
But viewers from across California, Nevada, Colorado and Arizona say they were confused because the light was unlike anything they had ever seen.
“I’m like it’s not a firework, it’s not a falling star, it’s not the moon…I don’t know what it was…but it was coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” skywatcher Jessica Blecker told NBC7.
“It was very wild watching this in the sky,” Julien Solomita, who documented the strange light, told the Associated Press. “I can’t really say what I thought it was because I’ve never experienced anything remotely close to it.”
Actress Lena Dunham, creator and star of the HBO show ‘Girls,’ posted a video of the light on her Instagram account and joked, “Was I abducted?”
Many excited viewers thought the light was part of the annual Taurid meteor shower. But UC San Diego astrophysicist Brian Keating dismissed this possibility to The San Diego Union-Tribune, noting that the the light was coming from the west, whereas Taurid meteors come from the east. “We’d also be more likely to see meteors about midnight, and the flash came near sunset,” he added.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has confirmed that “nighttime flights into and out of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) will avoid passing over the Pacific Ocean just to the west of the airport” beginning Friday night through Thursday night because the US military has officially activated the local airspace.
Nighttime flights going in and out of LAX typically use a flight path over the Pacific to avoid disrupting local Los Angeles neighborhoods. Neither the FAA nor LAX have confirmed if Saturday’s missile test is related to the military’s airspace activation.