Mystery solved: Military test created light trail in evening sky

From Kauai to the Big Island, a strange light trail could been seen over the islands Tuesday night.

Just after 7:30 p.m., KHON2’s newsroom was flooded with calls and our Facebook page was packed with posts from viewers who saw the light.

“It was just like a long streak, a different color, out of the ordinary,” said Kalihi resident Kimo Windrath.

“Like a highlighted or neon zig-zag in the sky,” said Kailua resident Nicole Suzuki.

On Wednesday, the military cleared the air.

“The test was the Aegis Ashore missile defense program. It was their first initial launch of the facility here,” said Stefan Alford, public affairs officer for the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai.

Video released by DVIDS, Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System, shows different angles of the test as it launches and shoots into the sky.

“What people saw out there was basically the shifting contrails of the missile that hit the upper level and the winds twisted the smoke trail around,” Alford said.

This was the first time this missile has been launched from land. Previous tests involved missiles being fired offshore.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard saw it unfold from Virginia, where she also received a national security briefing. She told KHON2 the initial launch went off without a hitch.

“This is so critical for us in Hawaii in particular because of the increasing capabilities that North Korea continues to grow as well as the rounds of threat that North Korea continues to make,” she said.

More tests could be done later this year or next year, which means, depending on the winds, Hawaii residents may see this again.

Military officials said they notified Kauai lawmakers about the test before it happened, hoping lawmakers would pass the word onto residents. But they didn’t warn lawmakers on other islands or alert the media, because they didn’t expect the test to receive so much attention.

Officials said, next time, they’ll be sure to spread the word across the state.

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