Thanks for the detailed line of reasoning, it helps identify where the assumptions lead you off track and where additional factors come into play --
see below your message:
Originally posted by poet1b
Note that the exhaust trails are black, and do not glow. Within a minute and a half it looks like a very large bright star. Only the rocket flame is
visible, not the exhaust trails which are theorized to create this spiral.
How big is this rocket seen from Norway supposed to be? It seems from this video evidence it would have to be much, much bigger than the space
shuttle launch vehicle.
Other important points about observing a space shuttle launch from a distance, from this article.
Depending upon your distance from the coastline, the shuttle will be relatively low on the horizon (5 to 15 degrees; your fist on an outstretched
arm covers about 10 degrees of sky). If you're positioned near the edge of a viewing circle, the shuttle will barely come above the horizon and
could be obscured by low clouds or haze.
The space shuttle is being launched into orbit, and only appears to be about a fist height above the horizon from the edge of its visibility, about
500 miles away, which would be the distance of the people in Norway reporting this event. I guess this rocket that must be much bigger than the space
shuttle launch vehicle is also shooting up at a much steeper angle than the space shuttle.
Reports are that the Norway spiral was visible for ten minutes. Yet, the discovery blinks out after 8 minutes. ....
When you compare this Norway spiral to a shuttle launch, I would say it becomes clearly obvious that this can not be some missile failure glimpsed
from so far away. This missile would have to be bigger than the space shuttle launch vehicle.
First, there is a fundamental difference between orbital launches and ICBM surface-to-surface launches, which I think you are acknowledging. To reach
orbit, one must get to orbital velocity horizontally, as soon as possible, so the shuttle aims for engine cutoff at an altitude of about 60 miles,
exactly as you wrote -- while moving only slightly higher than horizontal to coast out to apogee (maybe 160 miles) an hour later and fire engines
there to circularise. In contrast, ICBMs "loft" their trajectories at a significant angle at cutoff, to maximize ground range and also to have a
reasonably large descent angle over the target (improves aiming) -- say, 30-40 degrees or so lofted, and the same for reentry. This steeper ascent
(which you acknowledge) puts them higher sooner than orbital launches -- they can coast out to 600 miles or higher within ten minutes of cutoff.
Second, shock waves are indeed visible in the dark -- it's not just the flame of the engine that watchers see. I've seen these shock fronts from
Florida as have many thousands of other watchers, for a wide variety of rockets including much smaller ones than shuttles. The shock front is also
visible in night-time shuttle launches from the rocketcam on board, looking backwards -- it's that giant white 'ring of fire that encircles the
tail, look for it on youtube.
Third, the timing of the Tromso event was fortuitous in providing backlighting from the rising sun. That illumination, for example, kept the
low-on-horizon initial plume trail visible until it dispersed -- as long as ten or fifteen minutes after launch. Higher plume effluent would have
ballistically dispersed and fallen within a few minutes of ejection.
Note that the higher-altitude plume effluent -- the solid fuel combustion products -- would still have been flying up and outwards as well, late in
the profile. That's because although they are ejected at about 8,000 ft/sec (Isp X G), the missile is already achieving a speed of 15,000 to 20,000
ft/sec, so the exhaust particles retain a large fraction of that up-and-away velocity.
Fourth, the actual nozzle flare brightness seems to have been much lower for Tromso reports than for shuttle launches, consistent with the much
smaller size of the engine -- exactly as you suspect. The visible effects appear to have been exhaust and shockwave related, not directly from the
brightness of the exhaust. On the shuttle ascent, the main engine plume is actually nearly invisible -- hydrogen flames are -- and the brightness
reported by witnesses is associated with atmospheric shockwave plume effects.
Your comment on duration of shuttle thrusting is insightful, since for ICBM launches it's even worse -- their main thrusting period can be five
minutes or less since they are not constrained to limiting G forces for comfort of passengers.
Perhaps somebody else reading this can help you find the link to the IR weather sat images, or show you how to locate them directly from their
sources. It sounds like a skill that you really should acquire in order to assess questions such as wide-area visibility, in the future.
As an exercise, how about finding for us the IR WX pix over Xinjiang at 12:00 GMT Jan 11, the time of the UFOs spotted there?
Your questions are good ones, even if you still are too quick to make up "factoids" to fit your preferred solutions. By asking the questions, you
have embarked on a dangerous pathway that may shake to the foundations some of your favorite beliefs if you have the courage to persist. I'd be happy
to help you along this trip but be warned you may change your mind on long-cherished ideas, and lose friends.