Patrick Minnis, a senior research scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., who studies remote sensing of the atmosphere and Earth's surface, and colleague Doug Spangenberg, analyzed a sequence of infrared images of the area of the sighting collected between 5 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. Monday by GOES-11, a geostationary operational environmental satellite.
At 5:30 p.m. "suddenly there is contrail extending horizontally from the left side of the image ... that bends toward the (northeast) pointing directly at Catalina Island," Minnis said in an e-mail to the AP. The contrail had to have started 15 to 45 minutes earlier and become quite wide to be visible to the satellite, he said.
"The eastern end of it is roughly 200 miles from the LA coast. If the plane was at 39,600 feet, at least 60 miles of it could have been seen from the video viewpoint," reports The Washington Post with more details. CBS has a video report on the mystery missile.