Stunning sunset contrail caught on camera above New Zealand

As the Black Caps claimed victory over Bangladesh at Hagley Oval on Tuesday night, it wasn't just the sixes that had people looking to the sky.

Just before 8pm, one of Spark Sport's camera operators captured footage of an Air New Zealand Airbus A320 flight heading to Auckland from Dunedin.

The shot of the aircraft and its vapour trail turning golden as it was hit by the dusky light of sunset was captured by a camera operator located 55km east of the aircraft, which was flying at 37,000 feet.

Passengers onboard flight NZ678 would have been unaware their evening commute was being broadcast to millions around the world.

It's not the first time action in the night sky has been caught on camera during a sports match. 

In 2019, at a Black Caps game in Tauranga, a Sky Sport camera operator spotted a meteor shower taking place above New Zealand.

"That's a meteor shower apparently," commentator Ian Smith said on-air at the time.

Should the plane be 'smoking' like that?

Often mistaken for smoke, contrails are essentially just clouds.

Think of when you can see your breath on a cold winter's morning. In that case, your mouth is pretty much doing what an aircraft engine does.

Happening at sunset meant the contrail had a beautiful gold hue.
Happening at sunset meant the contrail had a beautiful gold hue. Photo credit: Newshub (File)

But in the engine's case, they are breathing out air at temperatures of around 1000 degrees, while flying through an atmosphere which is around minus 50 degrees. 

No, they are not made of chemicals

Despite the scientific reality, some people falsely claim that the trails being left by aircraft in skies around the world are actually chemicals being sprayed on the world's population. This is a conspiracy theory known as "chemtrails".

If it's that simple, why don't we see more of them?

Contrails are a common sight in many places around the world. In London, the city's skies are completely covered in them.

However, in New Zealand we simply don't have as many flights as they do in Europe, and contrails are only formed from above a certain height. Most flights in Aotearoa have already descended well below that level by the time they fly near our most populated areas.

Contrails in the sky above London.
Contrails in the sky above London. Photo credit: Getty

In the case of Tuesday night's NZ678, however, all the elements needed for a beautiful contrail shot were there: the aircraft was at 37,000 feet, the light of the sunset had turned the clouds golden and an eagle-eyed camera operator managed to capture their next great show.