WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A KSN viewer recently snapped these photos and sent them to the newsroom, asking what is it that they captured.
Viewer Terry Louthan sent us the following with his photos:
I was traveling from Andover to Pratt this morning, and watching the sunrise in my rearview mirror. I noticed a “strange” glowing light in the sky. I actually got off of Highway 54 between Kingman and Pratt and took these pictures. The pics were taken between 7:16 and 7:21 this morning, 9/28/23. I’m sure there is s perfectly logical explanation. I just don’t know what that is. Meteor, sundog? What do you think?
Terry is right, there is a perfectly logical explanation for what is captured in those photos. Some of you have probably already figured out that it is an airplane.
However, some will insist it’s a UFO, some sort of weather phenomenon, or even the dreaded mythological “chemtrails.” What’s happening in the photos Terry took is very easy to explain.
A plane traveling northeast is producing contrails. Contrails form behind planes when moisture in the hot exhaust from the jet engines hits the cold air in the upper atmosphere.
It’s similar to what happens when you breathe out on a cold winter’s day. That warm moist air quickly condenses when it meets the cold air.
The second component is the sun. While you may not be able to see the sun in these photos, the plane is high in the atmosphere and far off in the distance where the sun has already risen.
Sunlight is illuminating the vapor trail and reflecting down. While it looks like something either “bursting up” towards the sky, or even something falling, it just appears that way due to the angle.
The plane is traveling northeast, but because of the curvature of the earth, it appears angled.
Most planes are flying between 30,000 to 38,000 feet in the air. A mile is 5,280 feet.
So, 38,000 ÷ 5,280 = 7.197 (rounding up the third decimal place.) That gives us a rough height of around 7 miles.
You can calculate the distance by using the angle, your height, and the height of the airplane. The website Contrailscience.com has a really good explanation about how to do it.
it also has a lot of great information about contrails and the science behind them. You can also find great information on them here.
Given the direction of the airplane and the time of day, it appears that the plane in question was likely an Airborne Express flight traveling from Phoenix, Arizona to Baltimore Maryland.