Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rockets are cool, even when they fail... Crazy spiral contrails in the night sky over Norway

Update: The Russians have now taken credit for this rocket. Confirmed Bulava.

"A mysterious light display appearing over Norway last night has left thousands of residents in the north of the country baffled.

Witnesses from Tr√łndelag to Finnmark compared the amazing sight to anything from a Russian rocket to a meteor or a shock wave - although no one appears to have mentioned UFOs yet.

The phenomenon began when what appeared to be a blue light seemed to soar up from behind a mountain. It stopped mid-air, then began to circulate."

Obviously most rocket people know what this is right away, and most civilians are really confused. I will be the first to admit that this was a pretty shocking looking event. The tumbling and spirals were so perfect! And the colors... What a great CATO this must have been. Or was it a normal stage separation maybe? The likely source would be Russia, but they are not saying anything. No one is claiming anything about this, not just yet anyway. That may indicate a military origin, or classified test.


This is one possible ICBM that is a likely candidate, the Bulava:

Bulava Wiki

Here is an article about the tests conducted on this ICBM: Bulava Article

"In June, Russia announced the sucessful test of its new Bulava ICBM. News of the Bulava's previous four failures (exploding after take-off, etc) were quietly swept aside. Only Kommersant's intrepid defense reporter Ivan Safronov, a retired colnel in the Space Rocket Forces, covered the issue. This is, until he decided to 'jump' from his apartment widnow in March.

There are now a flurry of questions as to the sucesss of the latest Bulava test. "The main designer of the Bulava, Yuri Solomonov, has in the past attributed the multiple mishaps of test-launches to the progressive degradation of the Russian defense industry, the inferior quality of Russian-made components and materials, and the 'loss' of key military technology (Jamestown)."


More images:

 This first video shows a simulation, something that I think was created after this event, to demonstrate what a spinning rocket stage might look like. The coolest part is the fact the fine material (solid propellant exhaust?) is being ejected pretty darn quickly. As soon as it runs out, as can be seen in some of the videos, the center gets dark showing a lack of material. The darkness spreads to the edges as the whole phenomenon fades. Really this is a good demonstration of how extreme the physics of rocketry can be. In my mind, I see a solid rocket stage that has failed or lost guidance and is simply spinning. Do you think that may be right?

The News Story
Discussion in the forum (btw. I am "New Ocean" at this forum.)
A nice article at Bad Astronomy
Here are some other night contrails from large rockets, do they look similar to you?

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