LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — An early morning missile test in New Mexico left a white contrail that quickly turned into a corkscrew that was visible for hundreds of miles Thursday.

The unarmed Juno target missile was launched at 5:55 a.m. PST from an old military depot in northwestern New Mexico.

CBS2 meteorologist Evelyn Taft was among those who took to Twitter this morning asking the question: “What was that?”

Officials say the missile was aimed at White Sands Missile Range, some 215 miles away, but a White Sands spokesman says it was successfully intercepted over the range by a Patriot missile and disintegrated midair.

Range spokesman Luciano Vera says a second Patriot fired from White Sands self-destructed after the first Patriot hit the target.

Military officials said they received numerous reports of the contrail being spotted in the Phoenix area. Observers also took photos of the corkscrew-shaped cloud from Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California, more than 850 miles away.

It was a sight that may have been reminiscent of a mystery contrail spotted in the skies above Southern California in 2010.

The Pentagon later said the contrail was likely caused by an airplane.

This time, officials shared information about the launch in advance with communities as far away as Palm Springs. Radio stations in Arizona also were broadcasting stories about what people could expect to see in the pre-dawn sky.

“It’s hard to describe, but it’s very unusual, so that’s why we get the calls,” White Sands spokeswoman Cammy Montoya said. “People want to know: What happened? Is it a UFO? What’s going on?”

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments