An amateur photographer thought the world was ending when she caught pictures of a Trident missile in action near Los Angeles.
The series of pictures captured by Porter Tinsley, who posted them on her blog Less Than Amateur, show a white halo backdropped by the Milky Way. She took the pictures while standing on Bombay Beach, two and a half hours away from L.A., on Saturday (Nov. 7) during one of two Trident missile tests over the weekend. You can see a time-lapse video of the missile test here made from Tinsley's amazing photos.
"When it exploded and kept expanding, I realized it wasn’t a plane on fire but thought there was a good chance that a chemical or nuclear weapon had detonated over Los Angeles/Southern California," Tinsley wrote on her blog, where you can see more photos of the event.
"All I could do was stand there and realize life as I knew it could be over in a few minutes. So I did what anyone else would do. I took pictures of it."
The unannounced light show concerned people across California, but it turned out to be the first of two Trident 2 D5 missiles that were tested this week. When the three-stage missile gets rid of one of its stages, it produces a spectacular flash.
The U.S. Navy confirmed the test on Monday night. The Trident "demonstrate[s] the readiness of our nation’s nuclear triad and serve to assure our allies and deter our potential adversaries," said U.S. Navy Adm. Ceil Haney, head of Strategic Command, in the statement.
Tinsley stresses on her blog that she is not a professional photographer, but "bought a nice camera" and hosts the blog in part to learn how to use it.
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Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace