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EarthSky // Earth, Science Wire Release Date: Jun 30, 2015

Lenticular clouds look like UFOs

These lens-shaped clouds are often mistaken for UFOs. Here’s how they form, plus gorgeous photos and a video.

“Lenticular cloud outside my window in Dublin Ireland this morning. I was surprised to see this as we don’t get them too often here,” by Anthony Lynch Photography June, 2015.

Enjoy these photos and a video of beautiful lenticular clouds taken in places around the world, and shared with us by EarthSky friends on Facebook and Google+.

These lens-shaped clouds typically form where stable moist air flows over a mountain or a range of mountains. When this happens, a series of large-scale standing waves may form on the mountain’s downwind side. If the temperature at the crest of the wave drops to the dew point, moisture in the air may condense to form lenticular clouds. As the moist air moves back down into the trough of the wave, the cloud may evaporate back into vapor. So lenticular can appear and disappear relatively quickly. Plus they’re not familiar to people who live in low-lying or flat terrain. And, just to confound things, lenticular clouds have also been known to form in non-mountainous places, as the result of shear winds created by a front. For all of these reasons, lenticular clouds are often mistaken for UFOs (or “visual cover” for UFOs). Enjoy the photos! Thank you to all who posted.

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View larger. | Lenticular clouds over Sangre de Cristos mountains, New Mexico, by EarthSky Facebook friend Geraint Smith.

View larger. | Lenticular clouds over Sangre de Cristos mountains, New Mexico – in January, 2015 – by EarthSky Facebook friend Geraint Smith.

Angela Mosley caught this lenticular cloud from Denver, Colorado in December, 2014.

Angela Mosley caught this lenticular cloud from Denver, Colorado in December, 2014.

Lenticular Timelapse from Michael Fuchs on Vimeo.

Lenticular clouds by Richard T. Hasbrouck.  Visit Richard's website.

Lenticular clouds by Richard T. Hasbrouck in Truchas, New Mexico, January, 2014.

David Marshall captured this lenticular cloud above the Alps in northern Italy.

David Marshall captured this lenticular cloud above the Alps in northern Italy.

John Lloyd Griffith in north Wales captured this lenticular cloud on December 22, 2013.

John Lloyd Griffith in north Wales captured this lenticular cloud on December, 2013.

This last photo comes from Michel Studinger of Project IceBridge.  It's a lenticular cloud over Antarctica, November 24, 2013.

This last photo comes from Michel Studinger of Project IceBridge. It’s a lenticular cloud over Antarctica, November, 2013.

Radek Zek Photography caught this lenticular cloud in September 2013.

Radek Zek Photography caught this lenticular cloud in September, 2013.

Emilio Lepeley of Vicuna, Chile captured this lenticular cloud in August 2013.

Emilio Lepeley of Vicuna, Chile captured this lenticular cloud in August, 2013.

Jackie Phillips in Virginia caught this lenticular cloud on October 31, 2012.

Jackie Phillips in Virginia caught this lenticular cloud in October, 2012.

Beautiful shot of lenticular cloud at sunset by Chris Walker in Dayton, Nevada.  Taken in spring 2008.

Beautiful shot of lenticular cloud at sunset by Chris Walker in Dayton, Nevada. Taken in spring 2008.

Bottom line: Photos and video of lenticular clouds in various parts of the world, from EarthSky’s community on Facebook and G+.