Kevin Aylward and I were scratching our heads this afternoon over the screencap he took from one of the 9/11 videos released today. Clearly something’s there — but what the hell is it? I thought the white blob might be part of the plane; Kevin agreed. But then someone pointed me to this fabulous conspiracy-theory debunking from 2004 and I realized (a) the image isn’t new — it was released to the public four years ago (see the “Extra Information” gallery in the sidebar), and (b) that white stuff isn’t part of the plane. It’s smoke.

Let’s look at the screencaps. Here’s the last shot of the calm before the storm, taken at 0:24:53. Note the horizon directly above the yellow ticket dispenser on the right.

film2-2453.jpg

Here’s the next frame, the one Kevin screencapped, taken at 0:25:07. Don’t focus on the white blur; focus on the area above the ticket dispenser.

film2-2507.jpg

There’s a dark triangle there now, which logically can only be either the tail of the plane or, if it was rolling over, one of the wings. Ergo, the white blob to the right must be a smoke trail. Kev and I didn’t recognize this earlier because we didn’t have the first frame with which to compare; for all we knew, the black triangle was part of the background landscape. The author of the post at “Above Top Secret” had figured it out (or guessed correctly) eighteen months ago, though. Click and scroll down to the section titled “The Gate Camera” and see what he had to say. I think he’s stretching when he claims he can make out the nose of the plane by enlarging the image, but the point about it banking right — away from the camera, thus obscuring the front part of the fuselage behind the ticket dispenser — rings true.

The next frame in the sequence, at 0:25:97, shows the impact. You can clearly see it’s a smoke trail here.

film2-2597.jpg

Here’s the impact frame overlaid with the second frame so you can trace the trail all the way in.

film2-overlay.jpg

The new video released today doesn’t show as much of the plane as the old one, but here are the three impact frames in sequence so you can get a good look. First, at 1:26:40, the last moment before the plane enters the field of view.

film1-12640.jpg

At 1:26:53, the nosecone (or wing?) appears at the right, level with the horizon.

film1-12653.jpg

At 1:27, impact.

film1-12760.jpg

You can see the smoke trail here too, I think, although it’s fainter due to the flash from the explosion. Note the black strip indicated by the arrow. It’s not visible in the previous two frames, although that might be due to that nasty glare on the lens.

film1-highlight.jpg

So there you have it. Do read the “Above Top Secret” piece; it’s a marvel. And watch this short video from CNN about the release of the videos today. Reporter Jamie McIntyre humiliates the conspiracy theorists by showing how his own reporting — live, on 9/11/01, in front of the Pentagon — has been twisted by the “Loose Change” crowd to suit their wacko agenda. Classic stuff.

Update: Here’s a typically worthy post from Captain Ed explaining why there’s so much smoke coming off the back of the plane and why it’s so low to the ground. Don’t miss it.