Missile and satellite launches are routine along the California coast.
The area of ocean perceived as the seeming liftoff point Monday night is in the vicinity of a Navy ocean range where missiles are often launched from vessels, platforms and San Nicolas Island.
Up the coast is Vandenberg Air Force Base, where satellites are lofted into polar orbit and intercontinental ballistic missiles are launched on unarmed test flights to targets thousands of miles away in the Pacific Ocean. Three ICBMS were launched between June and September.
Many of these launches are invisible to the metropolitan area, shrouded by the layer of moist marine air that often rolls in from the Pacific. Others are lost in the brightness of daytime.
But launches on very clear nights or at twilight sometimes trigger numerous calls to media or authorities reporting unusual sky sightings from hundreds of miles away, even from neighboring states.
No such spontaneous public response occurred Monday night in the nation's second-largest city, suggesting that the image captured by the airborne camera was not apparent to ground observers'