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No. 110: Mar-Apr 1997

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Unusual Circulating Cloud Object

July 24, 1996. Malborough, South Devon. About midnight on this date, E. Netley and his wife observed a most peculiar cloud formation. It was so well-formed and precisely organized that Netley felt that the term "cloud object" was appropriate. Even so, he was confident that the apparition represented a natural phenomenon. "Natural" probably, but certainly the strangest cloud we have encountered in 30 years of literature research.

The evening of July 23 was warm and a bit humid, with a modest breeze blowing in from the ocean. Netley and wife first saw the "cloud object" from a distance of about a kilometer; they eventually walked to within 400 meters of the phenomenon. The "object" consisted of a slowly rotating ring of thin, vertically oriented clouds. (See figure.) The cloud ring was 80-100 meters across and seemed to rotate in a horizontal plane at the rate of about one revolution per minute.

As though this were not strange enough, the rotating "cloud object" itself moved in a larger circle 8-10 times the diameter of the "cloud object." The "cloud object" took 4-5 minutes to complete a trip around the larger circle. The phenomenon lasted for about an hour before dissipating.

(Netley, Edward; "Unusual Circulating Cloud Object," Journal of Meteorology, U.K., 21:384, 1996.)

Revolving 'cloud object' Sketch of the revolving "cloud object". Part of the circle is omitted for clarity; it was actually complete. Like a wheel-within-a-wheel, this circle moved around a larger circular path.

From Science Frontiers #110, MAR-APR 1997. 1997-2000 William R. Corliss