The missile launch that caused a mysterious light in the sky off the coast of California put on “a show” due to unique atmospheric conditions, according to a Navy official who witnessed the test in the Pacific Ocean.
Sightings of a strange white or bluish light streaking in the night sky were reported from San Diego to the Bay Area around 6 p.m. Saturday. Within hours, U.S. Navy officials confirmed to NBC 7 the unusual lights in the sky were connected to the test firing of a Trident II missile from USS Kentucky well off the coast of the U.S.
“We know in this particular case, because of the atmospheric conditions and the very clear skies that we had on Saturday night, that there was a little bit of a show,” said John Daniels, Public Affairs Officer for the Navy Strategic Systems Program.
Daniels was present at the launch which he described as part of USS Kentucky’s Demonstration and Shakedown Operation (DASO). The testing is done when a new submarine enters the Pacific fleet or after a sub completes its mid-life overhaul.
The launch is similar to ones performed off the coast of Florida and allows the U.S. Navy to certify the crew and make sure the firing system is operating properly.
“We need to be able to go out there and conduct these tests to ensure our weapons systems are ready and our sailors are ready to conduct these missions,” Daniels said.
On Saturday, people along the coast of Southern California and perhaps further inland saw the launch because the test occurred right at the hours of dusk, he added.
“The reflection of the sunlight that was in the upper atmosphere when the first stage rocket separated,” Daniels said, “that’s what caused the bluish, green haze in the air that everyone saw.”
NBC 7 learned another test launch was scheduled to be performed Monday between the hours of noon and 5 p.m. PT. Navy officials said that it occured at approximately 12:20 p.m.
The Trident II missile has an unclassified range of 4,000-square nautical miles. There were three stage missiles used in the launch. As the mechanical separation of those missiles occurred, metallic particles in the air added to the unique color witnessed by people in San Diego, Daniels said.
The air space is restricted and the water way is closed prior to the test launch.
“It definitely is not going to impact a land area,” Daniels said.