Contrail to Distrail and back again

Mick West

Staff member

Full sized (10MB) file:
Original distrail image:

Just happened to noticed this, and I ran to get my camera. It was only visible for about ten to twenty minutes. It's the best example I've seen of a contrail turning into a distrail, and then back again. This is a panorama stitched from four shots. The contrail was pretty much overhead.

This type of contrail/distrail was first observed in 1921:
Not nearly the quality of your photo, Mick, this is from August 5, 2015, 5:34 pm, over Bakersfield, CA. I don't know how long it was in the sky before I saw, but by the time I got my camera out, I only got this one shot and within a minute or 2 the distrail closed up.DSCF1078.JPG
I first saw it at 13:32 local (20:32 UTC). Aug-10-2015 Probably 5-10 minutes old, overhead flight west to east. Probably UAL734, same type of plane as the aerodynamic contrail. And based on the altitude, also aerodynamic.

Excellent example from a couple of days ago:


I literally ran indoors for my camera, knowing it was not going to last long. Three minutes later it looked like this: