Hayne Palmour's Picture of the Contrails and Twilight Phenomenon of the 23 June 1997 Minuteman II Missile Launch Seen From Vista

Hayne Palmour's Picture of the Contrails and Twilight Phenomenon of the 23 June 1997 Minuteman II Missile Launch Seen From Vista

The above picture was taken by Hayne Palmour and published in the NCT of 6/24/97, B1, and reproduced by permission of Hayne Palmour. All rights reserved by Hayne Palmour and the North County Times, and any reproduction or reuse of this picture requires their permission.

There is also a ring of emission at the top of the contrail that is seen only partially in the photo. See Analysis of 23 June 1997 Minuteman II Contrail for more information.

Here are Hayne's words describing the photo:

I had no warning of its launch. I just saw a brillantly lit trail (by the setting sun) like that of a jet trail, heading up at an unusual angle and at a much higher speed than a jet. I did not see any fire or the shape of the rocket. But I did know what it was because I had seen another launch a few years ago.

While I was trying to get the camera set to shoot, I actually thought the missile had exploded. When I looked up to shoot, I suddenly saw this huge football shaped cloud at the end of the trail with a bright spot falling away. My guess is what I was really seeing was the second stage separation with the first stage rocket falling away.

The photo was taken with a digital camera (Nikon), with a 50 mm lens, which is equal to about an 80 mm lens with a film camera, and a tripod. The ISO speed was at 200. The exposure, if I remember correctly, was probably wide open (f1.8) and the shutter speed was, I think, around 1/8 to 1/2 second. I was working so fast it's hard to remember what I did.

The location was Sunset Drive in Vista. It is basically a hill that overlooks highway 78. The direction I'm looking is northwest, shooting directly at the horizon. I'm not really aiming up at all.

I would say you are right on as far as the time because I saw the rocket shooting up at 8:35 p.m. I stopped immediately and hand-held shot the second stage separation, and then it took me probably 15 minutes to find that vantage point to shoot the trail.


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Copyright © 1997 by Hayne Palmour and the North County Times. All rights reserved.
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Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Last update: 2 August 1997.