A flying saucer-shaped cloud floats above Hawaiian telescopes

No, the extraterrestrials did not just visit a few telescopes probing celestial phenomena.

The Gemini Observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii recently experienced a “close encounter” of a cloud that some people associate with Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs), but the true explanation is far less alien. . (It’s never about aliens, actually.)

“If at first glance you thought the white shapes on the left looked like a flying saucer, then you’re not alone. The white oval structures are actually fine examples of lenticular clouds,” said researchers. responsible for the National Optical-Infrared of the US National Science Foundation. The Astronomy Research Laboratory, or NOIRLab, shared a description of the image, which was taken at Gemini North in Maunakea, Hawai’i, on Thursday (August 10). (NOIRLab helps manage Gemini.)

According to the National Weather Service, lenticular clouds, sometimes called “UFO clouds,” form when fast winds crash into the side of a mountain or other tall structure. (opens in a new tab).

Related: Ghostly ‘UFO cloud’ hovering over mountains wows judges in weather photo contest

The UK Met Office says these formations are quite common in mountainous regions. “As air blows across a mountain range, under certain circumstances it can create a train of large standing waves in the air downstream, much like ripples forming in a river as water flows over a obstacle,” the Met Office said.

“If there is enough moisture in the air,” the office continued, “the upward motion of the wave will cause water vapor to condense, forming the unique appearance of lenticular clouds. .”

Lenticular clouds mainly form in the mesosphere, which is the lowest and densest layer of Earth’s atmosphere. About 75% of Earth’s air is found here, in a narrow zone just 5 to 9 miles (8 to 14.5 kilometers) above sea level.

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