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4 de Marzo 2007

NOT a Cruise Missile in Flight Over Utah

Not a cruise missile, a jet in Google EarthYesterday someone posted a find in Google Maps of what they claimed was a cruise missile in flight over south central Utah captured in the satellite photo. I have to admit at first glance it appeared to be a missile (although I was pretty sure it wasn't a cruise missile from the looks of it). However, in Google Earth , if you zoom in closer you can see this is a jet airliner with dark colored wings. If you click on the thumbnail picture to the right here you will see a larger contrast-enhanced version where the wings are more visible. Not only that, but if you use the GE measuring took, the fact it is 90 feet long is a clue. Also, the pair of vapor trails shows it has two engines (a cruise missile only has one). There was a Digg on the find, and many commenters were quick to point out it was not a cruise missile. One commenter said the jet is an MD-90. Over at the Google Earth Community, a lot of people posted the "cruise missile" find after the Digg. Hopefully this post can help spread the word about what it really is.

Related: Finding planes in flight in Google Earth.

Enviado por FrankTaylor at 4 de Marzo 2007 a las 09:03 AM

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  • Comentarios

    How do you measure objects that are not on the ground?

    Enviado por: Timo at 4 de Marzo 2007 a las 07:28 PM

    Using the measuring stick could be a little misleading, wouldn't it? I mean, the plane's probably a few thousand feet off the ground, while the measuring stick measures things on the ground.

    Enviado por: Navneeth at 5 de Marzo 2007 a las 03:03 AM

    The measuring stick is still effective with measuring airplanes in flight. The reason is that the satellite is at least 100 miles above the earth. From that distance, the line of sight is essentially parallel between the plane and the ground. So, the measurement is still very close to correct.

    Enviado por: Frank Taylor at 5 de Marzo 2007 a las 07:34 AM

    satellite or arial foto? And contrails are from the wings, not the engines. Yes there are wings and cruise missiles have wings. I don't know which one it is but it could be either.

    Enviado por: Rob at 5 de Marzo 2007 a las 10:04 PM

    What are the white objects on either side of the plane about the middle? These appear to be a pair of engine pods. What plane has engines on top of the wings?

    Enviado por: Tom at 5 de Marzo 2007 a las 11:15 PM

    I thought some of the pictures, especially the high-resolution ones, are aerial photos taken from an aircraft.

    And by looking at the contrails of the "cruise missile", I'll say that its flying higher than 30.000 feet.

    Enviado por: Timo at 6 de Marzo 2007 a las 05:13 AM

    "The measuring stick is still effective with measuring airplanes in flight. The reason is that the satellite is at least 100 miles above the earth. From that distance, the line of sight is essentially parallel between the plane and the ground. So, the measurement is still very close to correct." --Frank

    So you are saying that an object that is perhaps 20,000+ feet off the ground is covering the same amount of the photo as the ground that is 20,000 feet below? Think about it...

    Enviado por: Anthony Kelly at 6 de Marzo 2007 a las 10:59 PM

    Anthony Kelly: Yes, the difference in size of the plane viewed from 96 miles is about the same as from 100+ miles where the satellite is taking the photo from. 20,000 feet just doesn't make much difference from those distances.

    Enviado por: Frank Taylor at 7 de Marzo 2007 a las 07:13 AM

    Contrails can be made both by wing tips and engines. But contrails from wing tips are seen only on takeoff and landing. Long (look at the picture from far away) contrails are almost always seen on planes flying very high.


    Enviado por: Timo at 7 de Marzo 2007 a las 06:20 PM

    To do some quick and dirty math, 100 miles is 528000 feet. The presumption is something at 528000 feet and something at 508000 look approximately same. According to significant figure math, if we only have 1 significant figure involved both numbers are essentially 5*10^5. With two significant figures its 5.1*10^5 versus 5.3*10^5. Perhaps more importantly, A tomahawk cruise missile (a rather large cruise missile) is, according to Wikipedia somewhere in the neighborhood of 6.25 Meters in length, which is 625 CM (625/2.54)/12~=20.5 Feet in length. When we compare: 91 Feet and 20.5 feet and then knock them down to a single significant figure, which is probably over estimating the precision of our instruments we get 9*10^1 versus 2*10^1 both resulting from 5*10^5.

    Now, I may have butchered the rules of significance arithmetic a bit, but you get the idea.

    Enviado por: Kevin at 29 de Marzo 2007 a las 01:19 PM

    Wiki's explanations don't cover the contrails observed way-back-when with piston-engined, prop-driven aircraft. Perhaps a WWII bomber pilot might have firsthand comments on contrails forming at the not-so-high altitudes attained with their unpressurized aircraft. You'll also see contrails in some of the photos of dogfights between WWII fighters that were observed from the ground. - - - In the case of these piston-engined planes, the vortex created by the tips of the prop slicing through the air probably caused the vapor condensation. A vapor "wall" can be observed forming along the fuselage in pics of a jet breaking the sound barrier, and, as someone noted on the Wikipedia page, with rapid changes in wing angle during fighter-aircraft maneuvers. The Wiki article credited a drop in air pressure for the observed vapor but could the 'increase' in speed over the curved fuselages/wings/props be a consideration? As an illustration, with older carbureted engines in cooler, damper air, the speed-up & compression of air through the carburetor's venturi chilled it to the extent that you could see a vapor forming - sometimes even icing occurred to the extent that the engine would stall. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carburetor_icing)

    Enviado por: R. Janke at 30 de Marzo 2007 a las 10:21 PM

    Funny thing...if you follow the vapor trail of the missile (plane) back to 38 degrees 11' 11.06" N and 112 degrees 17' 16.31" W you will find something that looks like a missile silo.

    Enviado por: Les at 31 de Marzo 2007 a las 10:24 AM

    this is a missile because the length is approximately 23 like a SS-24, and the MD-90 is 46.5 length.

    Enviado por: johnny at 2 de Septiembre 2008 a las 12:44 PM

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