I tend to agree with Phil Plait’s take on the nature of this phenomenon – namely that it’s related (read the blog) to the launch of a Minuteman III missile from Vandenberg AFB’s facility in California, moments before – rather than the tongue-in-cheek suggestion at Gawker that this deserves the ubiquitous label, “UFO.”
For good measure, just to show you how WEIRD a man-made phenomenon can appear, under the right circumstances, I’m including a still shot and video clip of an F-111 Aardvark (variable-sweep winged predecessor to the the F-14 Tomcat) doing a fuel dump and burn , where onboard fuel is dumped out a port in the aft of the aircraft and ignited with the afterburner. It’s a very “beat up” process, and besides being used in combat conditions to shed weight before landing, it’s been done at airshows, fireworks exhibitions, etc. The performance was staged at the “Gold Coast” Indy 300, in Queensland, Australia.
First, the still shot. Weird looking, no? But what you’re seeing (as you will clearly see in the video) is the burning plume of fuel off the end of the aircraft (although I suspect that part of what your seeing is an artifact produced in the camera lens, from the intense glare - it might not have looked quite so dramatic with the naked eye.)