Lots happening in the Humboldt heavens today, for better or worse! In addition to PG&E’s helicopter flock, multiple LoCO readers wonder about contrail evidence of some air vessel making a dramatic flight path alteration. Look up! See? Who or what does that?

Well, the answer is probably not as interesting as you’d hoped — not chemtrails, not aliens, not chemtrail-spreading aliens — but it’s still not as boring as it could be! The Outpost checked in over at airspace monitoring site FlightAware and discovered that our soaring suspect is none other than a NASA plane that has been loop-di-looing all over California this morning. Check out this wacky flight path below: 

So why is NASA flying erratically around the state today? We called up Emily Jacobs, program director with the Humboldt County Aviation Division and LoCO‘s official sky-watcher. She had no prior knowledge of NASA missions occurring locally today. FlightAware, however, is kind enough to list the plane’s tail number and a quick googling reveals that this particular plane has baffled California before. One enjoyable tweet: 

Thankfully, the skeptic skeptics at Metabunk cracked this case previously. They note that the plane, a C-20A Environmental Science Research Aircraft, is used by NASA to map earthquake fault lines among other geophysical tasks. From NASA’s website:

NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center operates a C-20A, a military version of the Gulfstream III business jet, as an environmental science research aircraft for a variety of geophysical research missions. The aircraft has been extensively modified and instrumented for the role, including installation of a sophisticated synthetic aperture radar in an underbelly pod, a self-contained on-board Data Collection and Processing System (DCAPS) and a precision autopilot that enables the aircraft to fly repeat passes over a target within 15 feet of the original flight path.

So there you go. While there is, again, no reason for you to worry about the contrails above you, you are more than free to freak out about the shifting plates below you (but why? It’s so nice out!).