Thanks for the interest. I just used www.heavens-above.com to compute the sun elevation angle at the launch site for every one of the five known Topol
flights, and got the following:
2005 Nov 01 1710 gmt
2110 local [sunset 1637] sun altitude -44.2 deg, az 304.6 deg
2009 Dec10 1235 gmt
1635 local [sunset 1601] sun alt -5.6 deg az 241.2 deg
2010 Dec 05 1911 gmt
23:11 local [sunset 16:02] sun alt -62.9 deg, az 341.2 deg
2012 Jun 07 1739 gmt
21:39 local [sunset 20:56] sun alt -6.2 deg, az 315.4 deg
2013 Oct 10 1339 gmt
17:39 local [sunset 18:18] sun alt +5.4 deg, az 253.3 deg
The three launches for which we have EXTENSIVE ground observation reports had sun elevation angles of -5, -6, and +5 degrees -- meaning even for the
-6 deg case, a rocket emerges up into sunlight about 30 km up, which is what some videotapes showed.
The one launch I failed to find any reports had a sun angle of -62 degrees, which computes to a required altitude of ~ 2000 miles before exiting
earth's shdow -- and the missile never got that high, so it should be no surprise it left no visible contrail.
The 'unknown' case is the first, and ITS sun elevation angle of -44 degrees corresponds to an altitude needed to exit Earth shadow of about 1600
I've never seen any indication that any of the missiles even reached 1000 km up on their flight paths.
So if this theory is correct -- the plumes were visible because they were sunlit -- then the visibility of 2, 4, and 5, and the invisibility of 3, are
all consistent. Case 1 is the make-or-break. If we find any credible reports or videos, some other explanation will be needed. Failing that, my
hypothesis is strenghthened.
There were two other non-Topol launches from KY to SS in this same period, an old-model liquid-fuelled K65M-R on April 22,2006, at 1540 GMT, and a
new-model ICBM prototype ['Avangard'] on October 24, 2012, and I'm still working on getting the launch time of that.
The April 22, 2006 K65M-R launch was at 1540 GMT
local 7:40 PM, sunset was 7:43 PM, sun elevation essential 0 deg at az 283 deg
The October 24, 2012 'Avangard' launch was at 10:28 PM Moscow Time [1828 gmt], sun elev angle was -44 deg at az 311 deg -- NO JOY.
However, if the April 22, 2006 launch carried a similar warhead test [it was an entirely different missile], it might also have been visible from way
downrange -- Omsk area, say, or Kazakhstan -- where the sky would have just gotten dark enough. That's worth a search too.
edit on 1-12-2013 by JimOberg because: update