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I'm not a regular visitor of the aviation exchange, and know very little about the topic so wanted to make sure my question would be on topic.

Today a relative showed me a picture that contains what appears (to my unknowing eyes) to be a quite irregularly shaped contrail (vapour trail?). At the front of this is a (to us) unidentifiable "object". The one showing this picture claims that the trail can only have been left by a rocket. However I don't think that is the case but rather some kind of small agile plane (but don't know enough about aviation to really be sure of that either). I have a rough time and location estimate for when the photo was taken.

I know there are tags for , and , but I am not absolutely sure it really fits into either of those, as I can not for certain say it even really is any of these.

If you need the picture in question to be able to determine if it would be on question i'm happy to post it, but will refrain from posting it initially to not sidetrack this question to answering that question.

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The one showing this picture claims that the trail can only have been left by a rocket.

If it is in fact a rocket, you might have better luck over at https://space.stackexchange.com/ It is my understanding most rocket launches are public.

However I don't think that is the case (...)

If it's on social media, I think that fits https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/


Date, time, and location

For example consider this question. Note in the revision history, the time and location were not given, and it would not have been as answerable as it is now if it weren't for the additional information.

Without this info, it's likely to be a bad fit for any SE site, not because it's a bad question, no, it'll just be opinion based.

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  • $\begingroup$ I have a rough time and location for when the photo was taken (it was not on social media, but from a relative) I'll take a look over at space. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Remy
    Apr 12 '20 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ Reading the topics for space exchange I don't really think it would be a good fit there, as the question doesn't really have anything to do with "space (exploration)" $\endgroup$
    – Remy
    Apr 12 '20 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Remy: They have this tag: space.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/identify-this-object $\endgroup$
    – ymb1
    Apr 12 '20 at 12:29
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    $\begingroup$ Just to be clear "I saw it on social media" is not the requirement at skeptics, it must be a notable claim (ie, believed by a decent number of people. Obvious jokes/mockups/parody from FB are off-topic) $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec Mod
    Apr 14 '20 at 8:24
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I think the question would be to ok to post, if you think there is a significant chance it is an aircraft. Some aircraft do leave unique contrails that allow one to say something about what kind of aircraft might have caused it even if no time or date is known and even if the aircraft doesn't show clearly in the photo. For example there is something unique about the contrail left by a B-2 that has often caught my eye even though the actual plane appeared as no more than a tiny speck till I lifted my binoculars to look more closely. Also the contrails of 4-engined aircraft often form into two very defined cores as they merge with the wingtip vortices in a way that the contrails of other aircraft do not. On the other hand of course it's possible that the photo will not contain any special clues of this kind. But if the actual vehicle does show in the photo then its obviously not an hours-old trail and I think there's a significant shot that someone could notice some interesting clues in the photo. At a minimum it seems likely that someone could come up with a strong reason to say that it is in fact a contrail left by an aircraft rather than a rocket, or vice versa. In the worst-case scenario, even if the best answer seemed to be "there's nothing in that photo that is inconsistent with a contrail left by an aircraft", that would still seem to be an answer that would be of interest to you, so I don't think it can be objected that the question would not be likely to generate a useful answer. To me the question does not seem to be beyond the intended scope of Aviation Stack Exchange.

Update: it's easy to say in hindsight, but see the actual question and the answers posted -- while the answers that included knowledge of the location and time were really fascinating, the question would have been answerable without that information.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, I think you raise some good points! as ymb1 suggested I have also asked space.meta about the topicness of it there, i'll give them some time to chip in as well, but I think your arguments make a good case for it being on-topic here $\endgroup$
    – Remy
    Apr 12 '20 at 14:32

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