US Navy Missile Test Sparks Surprise … and an Awesome Sky View (Video)

Trident Missile Test by Tinsley Image
Photographer Porter Tinsley captured this awesome view of a U.S. Navy Trident missile test on Nov. 7, 2015, while taking photos from Bombay Beach outside Los Angeles, California. (Image credit: <a href="">Porter Tinsley</a>)

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."

Another view of a U.S. Navy Trident missile test on Nov. 7, 2015, as seen by photographer Porter Tinsley, who was taking photos at Bombay Beach outside Los Angeles, California, when the test occurred. (Image credit: Courtesy of Porter Tinsley)

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
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, 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 (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: