Contrails (short for “condensation trails”) are line-shaped clouds produced by aircraft engine exhaust or changes in air pressure, typically at aircraft cruising altitudes several miles above the Earth’s surface. Contrails are composed primarily of water, in the form of ice crystals. The combination of water vapor in aircraft engine exhaust and the low ambient temperatures that exist at high altitudes allows the formation of the trails. Impurities in the engine exhaust from the fuel, provide some of the particles that can serve as nucleation sites for water droplet growth in the exhaust. If water droplets form, they might freeze to form ice particles that compose a contrail. Their formation can also be triggered by changes in air pressure in wingtip vortices or in the air over the entire wing surface.
There are many potential explanations for sightings. We recommend eliminating the most common and mundane before jumping to less probable conclusions or you submit a report.