The claim: Post implies images of smoke trailing plane are evidence of ‘chemtrails’
“Next time they tell you ‘It's just contrails produced by engine exhaust, you're a conspiracy theorist," reads the text in the post. “If they have any logical sense make sure to show them these pictures.”
Some social media users took the post as evidence of “chemtrails” or other nefarious government activity.
“The wind blows these chemtrails all over,” one Facebook user commented. “If u think the government isn’t messing with the weather u r very ignorant (sic).”
“Wake up people,” wrote another social media user. “Contrails don't last for hours and leave a cross checkerboard look across the sky. They should evaporate.”
The post was shared more than 2,000 times in 10 days.
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Our rating: Missing context
Multiple elements of the implied claim here are false. The trails seen in the photo were created by smoke machines as part of a study of the air patterns that form in an airplane’s wake. Experts have repeatedly debunked the "chemtrails" conspiracy theory.
Photo shows airplane using smoke machines during flight study
The image shows a Boeing 747 jetliner that was used as part of a study on trailing vortices, the “invisible flow of spiraling air that trails from the wings of large aircraft,” according to the flight center’s website.
The aircraft had six smoke generators under its wings in order to help visualize the air patterns that formed during the test flights.
The purpose of the experiment was to “test different configurations and mechanical devices on the 747 that could be used to break up or lessen the strength of the vortices,” reads the center’s website. “The results of the tests could lead to shorter spacing between landings and takeoffs, which, in turn, could alleviate air-traffic congestion.”
The post alludes to the chemtrails conspiracy theory, which claims the white trails left by airplanes in the sky are "chemtrails," toxic chemicals supposedly added to the atmosphere by governments or other nefarious actors.
Reuters also debunked this claim.
Our fact-check sources:
USA TODAY, Sept. 19, Genetically modified mosquito release? No, plane image only shows airshow smoke
USA TODAY, Jan. 11, Fact check: No evidence of negative health effects from airplane contrails
USA TODAY, Aug. 16, 2016, Scientists disprove airplane 'chemtrail' theory
Dryden Flight Research Center, 1974, B-747 Vortex study (Nasa photo)
Dryden Flight Research Center, Sept. 20, 1974, B-747 in Flight during Vortex Study
Environmental Protection Agency, September 2000, Aircraft Contrails Factsheet
Harvard University, accessed Sept. 26, Chemtrails Conspiracy Theory
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Image shows plane trailing smoke, not 'chemtrails' | Fact check