Unusual Aerial Phenomenon

By John Wiley

We happened to look up from yard work just after sunset this Thursday, and were startled by the very unusual phenomenon going on overhead. Wispy clouds nibbling at the smiling half moon got our attention first.

Then looking across the sky we were startled by the strange texture of the clouds. In many places there were circular formations with darker edges.

You may not be able to pick them out in these pix, but higher above the orange there were a few white clouds still in full sun. Being brighter they shone through the orange, oddly making the white seem to be lower. As the show unfolded some details were fascinating, like these circles that morphed into “spectacles” for us.

Then that “O” on the right above, seemed paired with this “X” elsewhere in a disheveled tic tac toe game.


Maybe we don’t watch sunsets enough, but I don’t recall ever seeing a show quite like this. Did any other Edhatters notice it? Do you have theories as to what atmospheric (or alien) phenomenon would have created it?

John Wiley

Written by John Wiley

John Wiley is a local pilot and longtime contributor to edhat.

What do you think?


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  1. “Bartender, I’ll have whatever they’re drinking!”
    Seriously, I only glanced briefly at the spate of colorful sunsets we’ve had over the past week or so…some very colorful, which doesn’t seem to happen as often in Summer, as it does in Winter.
    I do enjoy the monsoonal clouds and weather we’ve had recently, perhaps that contributed to the ‘phenomena’ ?!?

    • A contrail there just before sunset was apparently at the same altitude, and only appeared in that area. My working theory is that the top out altitude of thermals was entering a layer of air conducive to cloud formation. The heavier edges could be accounted for by the centers of thermals rising higher, into a layer less conducive to clouds. Then the white layer could’ve been continuation of the rising air into another cloud-conducive layer. Needless to say, we stood there quite a while taking in the freaky nature of those clouds and puzzling over what would create them.

    • Maybe M.B., but these seemed higher since both layers were bright well after sunset and there was that contrail up in the flight levels (probably 25k’+). OTOH, in regard to Fractus being frontal, wasn’t there a storm edging toward LA about then? Still, seen plenty of clouds but never like these. Maybe I’ll email Shawn Quien and ask if he knows.

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