Is the Whidbey Island ‘missile’ mystery solved?

Jun 13, 2018, 6:09 PM
This image was captured showing what appears to be some kind of launch from Whidbey Island, but authorities say there was no launch. (Greg Johnson/Skunk Bay Weather)
(Greg Johnson/Skunk Bay Weather)

Western Washingtonians were perplexed over a photo taken early Sunday morning from the Kitsap Peninsula.

Greg Johnson of Skunk Bay Weather captured a photo just before 4 a.m. Sunday morning of a mysterious tail of light in the sky over Whidbey Island that was similar to the exhaust from a rocket.

The image sparked an online debate — could the light have come from a missile launch?

RELATED: What is the mysterious streak of light in this photo? 

“It really does look like a missile launch if you just look at it casually,” weather blogger Cliff Mass, who shared the photo on his blog on Monday, told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.

KOMO 4 News contacted NAS Whidbey and found that the base does not launch missiles. There were also no Naval ships in the area.

Mass, however, has a different theory.

“What I think it probably was was a helicopter,” he said. “Someone checked on all the various planes that were flying at that time, and it turns out there was a helicopter that went right over that location at the perfect time.”

Mass pointed out that no one reported hearing the sounds made by a rocket or seeing any sort of bright light that one would expect from a rocket blasting off.

The explanation, Mass said, is a bit of an optical illusion.

“You look at the picture, you think something’s taking off — but it could be just the opposite,” he said. “It could be something over you that’s going away from you, and it could give the same visual impression.”

He explained that if the helicopter is traveling at a constant height, as it travels away from you, it appears to get lower and lower. Using a 20-second exposure like the one used by Johnson, this could manifest itself as a vertical line in the sky.

“If the plane was going absolutely horizontal, it could give the impression that it was a vertical rocket or something,” he explained. “It could look the same way — and it’s just because of the perspective.”

If this explanation is true, that means Puget Sounders are safe from Kim Jong-un for the time being.

“At this point, there’s no reason to think that North Korea is involved in this,” Mass laughed.

Dori Monson on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM
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Is the Whidbey Island ‘missile’ mystery solved?