UFO-spotters in South Africa have been surprised by flying saucer-shaped clouds which wouldn’t look out of place in a Hollywood blockbuster.
It’s been an interesting week for those searching for signs of alien life. Reports from Los Angeles claimed that a UFO had been spotted, but it turned out to be a test missile fired by the U.S. Navy. And in South Africa, some strange-looking clouds caused excitement, writes Brad Reed for BGR.
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Flying saucer clouds form thanks to moist winds blowing over rugged terrain
While the new series of the X-Files is being promoted, the UFO-shaped clouds have nothing to do with Mulder and Scully. Interest was piqued thanks to a series of posts on social media showing clouds which looked like giant flying saucers about to descend on Cape Town.
Although the scene may look like its from an alien invasion movie, National Geographic is on hand to provide a scientific explanation for the phenomenon. Meteorologists call them lenticular clouds, and they form as strong, moist winds pass over terrain like mountains or valleys.
According to NASA they form “in air that passes over a mountain, rises up again, and cools past the dew point — so what molecular water carried in the air condenses into droplets.”
Lenticular clouds responsible for multiple UFO sightings
The area around Cape Town is dominated by such features, the most iconic of which is the 1,066-meter Table Mountain. Due to the cooling effect of these large features, moisture in the wind condenses into disk-like clouds which form perpendicular to the direction of the wind.
South Africans were actually looking at stratocumulus standing lenticularis, to give them their exact name. They are known as such because of their height and shape. In Latin, lenticular means “lens-like” which is another reference to their shape.
Lenticular clouds form in many locations around the globe and have been linked to a number of UFO reports. “The aliens have been moniting [sic] cape town for years now,” Instagram user monre44 quipped over the weekend.
Coastal, rugged areas are most likely to see lenticular clouds, so if you’re in such areas keep your eyes on the sky in case the UFO-shaped clouds form overhead.