1. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    I saw this contrail heading towards me and thought it would pass overhead, giving me a clear shot of the plane.


    Instead it began a turn to the north (the plane's left)

    Quite a dramatic one, from where I was standing.

    Turns out it was this:

    Identified on FlightAware as NASA502,

    It's an earthquake fault mapping flight.


    Interestingly I could see the turns in the path that was over San Francisco.

    That's about 100 miles away!

    NASA502 showed up before, with a very similar flight path:

    Its still in the air, and I expect a lot of photos of curved contrails to be posted today by "chemtrail" enthusiasts. There's already a few on Facebook:
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2016
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  2. Leifer

    Leifer Senior Member

    It seems to me, that circular or zigzag snake overhead flights are uncommon, but certainly expected "at some point" for research and testing.
    When it happens, no alarm bell should ring.
    Though, investigation of it when it does happen, is often interesting.

    If it was a contrail-less day, the aircraft may have not been spotted at all.
    ........which is to suggest that these flight patterns happen even more frequently, with or without a contrail.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2016
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  3. Marin B

    Marin B Active Member

    I haven't had a chance to get on line until now. I'm so glad the mystery has been solved! I noticed a really distinct contrail passing overhead near my house this afternoon around 3:35pm and as I unsuccessfully tried to locate it on FlightRadar24 (probably 'cause I didn't look far enough south or west), it made a big U-turn. I got a picture and will add it to this reply when I get a chance.

    Here's the u-turn over Marin county:

    Last edited: Mar 24, 2016
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  4. M Bornong

    M Bornong Senior Member

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  5. Trailspotter

    Trailspotter Senior Member

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  6. SR1419

    SR1419 Senior Member

    Flew right over me and i missed it...guess I am just a blind sheep who doesnt "look up" :)
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  7. Spectrar Ghost

    Spectrar Ghost Senior Member

    I think it's interesting that Roddie has correctly identified the aircraft. He clearly knows what it was there for, but chooses not to give its 'cover story'.
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  8. M Bornong

    M Bornong Senior Member

    I just caught this turnaround at 12:15 pm, March 24, 2016. This was looking due east from Bakersfield,


    The GE 747 testbed is flying, but the track is a little south of this, and a little low for contrail formation.

    and the NASA 806, which is a Lockheed ER-2 is circling just north of us at 60,000 feet, is that too high for contrails to form?


    So, there may be another plane doing some circling that isn't being picked up by flight radar.
  9. SR1419

    SR1419 Senior Member

    I think I saw it again today in Marin county about 12:10pm...I was with my parents visiting from out of town and I pointed it out...my mom wondered why it turned around- I suggested that it was likely an earthquake fault mapping plane from NASA- she was slightly incredulous that I would know that...and then I had to explain why I knew that..and it got all involved...I probably just should've just kept my mouth shut :)
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  10. tinkertailor

    tinkertailor Senior Member

    I got this shot of the curvacious contrail at 3:22, posted it in another thread. I was at the junction of Secret Ravine Parkway and Sierra College Boulevard in Roseville (or Rocklin, the Sac suburbs are crammed together so confusingly) looking due East. It's on the right side:
    My location at the time is represented by the blue dot in the lower left corner:
    contrailmap3-23-16dotted.PNG I think the angles line up, but Idunno.
    So I guess my mystery contrail has been identified? Flightradar's playback is down for me at the moment, so I can't check.
  11. Trailspotter

    Trailspotter Senior Member

    Yes, it has. I've modelled the 3:20 U-turn contrail in Google Earth:
    and look at it from your location:
    NASA502 contrail.

    The same model also matches the Lake Tahoe webcams' photos.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2016
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  12. steve holmes

    steve holmes Member

    Whoah! pretty amazing. I decided to quit taking so many contrail photos, figuring I'd just take the more interesting ones. I had begun to take my Canon camera out there with a UV filter, which is supposed to make the trails (clouds) stand out better from the sky but went back to my old camera and thus the poor pictures that I got.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 20, 2016
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  13. derwoodii

    derwoodii Senior Member

    welcome, post em up when you see interesting ones