UFO-Shaped Clouds Photographed in Hawaii

lenticular cloud
One of the UFO-shaped clouds spotted close to the Keck Observatory

Strange UFO-shaped clouds were spotted over the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes by space observatory workers in Hawaii last week.

Staff at the W. M. Keck Observatory photographed the flying saucer shapes in the sky which are lenticular clouds, they are often formed by the downwind of hills or mountains.

“We spotted some UFOs today!” Writes the Observatory on Twitter. “Or rather, their doppelgangers. Check out these stunning photos several Keckies took of flying saucer-shaped lenticular clouds hovering near Maunakea and Mauna Loa. Did you see them too?”

lenticular cloud

lenticular cloud

lenticular cloud

What are Lenticular Clouds?

Lenticular clouds are known for their curved, flying saucer-like appearance and are typically found at heights of 6,500 to 16,400 feet (2,000 to 5,000 meters).

They are usually found floating over a mountain top or mountain ridge. They are formed in the troposphere, the lowest region of Earth’s atmosphere when it is on the cusp of saturation.

When air flows over the mountain tops, it provides enough cooling to reach saturation and for a cloud to form. This means that air is constantly flowing through it. Once the air sinks again, it becomes warmer and drier, leaving saturation and becoming invisible once more.

While they appear static, the strong winds flowing through them mean that pilots will avoid flying near lenticular clouds because of the turbulence associated with their presence.

Deborah Byrd of EarthSky says: “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.”

Lenticular clouds sometimes resemble the shape of flying saucers and they are believed to be the most common explanation for UFO sightings across the world.

Image credits: Photos courtesy of R. Krejci, S. Yeh, A. Surendran, A. Rostopchina/W. M. Keck Observatory.