Astronomers love clouds. Well, actually a lot of us hate clouds, but a lot of us are fascinated by meteorology, and clouds in particular. I love ‘em all, from cumulonimbus to mammatus. But there’s something about the bizarre lenticular clouds — lens-shaped beasties that form downwind from mountains.
So how could I not love this video of a gigantic lenticular that formed near Mt. Fuji in Japan?
Yegads. I have a decent understanding of these, but even I would’ve soiled myself if I had seen this one. I love the layering in it, and how perfectly shaped it is. I’ve seen a few like it (see Related Posts below) but never one as nice as this.
Now that summer has hit once again – with a vengeance here in Boulder – I’m hoping to see more. If I do I’ll be sure to snap some pix and post ‘em.
Tip o’ the brolly to BABloggee Cristiana Senni.
Photographer Tony Rowell sent me a link to a time lapse video he made of the American southwest. It’s all really very pretty, but honestly, the part that got me was the amazing lenticular cloud at the very beginning. You just have to see it to believe it!
Spectacular, no? Lenticular, or lens-shaped, clouds form near mountains, where the rising air condenses to form the clouds, and the wind gives them their shape. I see them commonly here in Boulder, but near sunset the colors are magnificent. Tony really snagged a great shot there, and I love how it looks like a jellyfish hovering in the air.
Finally, right at the end (at the 4 minute mark) he caught a bright fireball over Mt. Whitney that’s just stunning.
It appears over several frames of the time lapse, which isn’t actually possible: meteors move so quickly they come and go in a single frame exposure (or at most just a few, depending on the exposure times)! I asked Tony about it, and he acknowledged that the meteor was slowed down after the fact in the video so you get a better view of it. I expect some people might think this is cheating, but I wouldn’t agree. After all, a time lapse itself might be considered cheating! It’s an artistic representation of reality, and I think it’s OK to let the art triumph, as long as it’s clear that’s the case.
Credit: Tony Rowell, used by permission.
Never tell me the odds!
Yegads. I saw this while I was outside the other day; that’s a lenticular cloud, shaped by winds blowing over the Rocky Mountains. We see a lot of them around Boulder, but this one looked really familiar. I suddenly realized: it’s a ship from Star Wars!
I thought it looked a lot like Queen Amidala’s ship. But I couldn’t be sure, so I sent a note to my pal Bonnie Burton, aka BonnieGrrl, the proprietor of grrl.com, and major Star Wars dork. She concurred with my conclusion of the cloud looking like a Naboo Royal Starship (I was careful not to bias her by suggesting it; she mentioned it herself). And Bonnie should know: she literally wrote the book on Star Wars crafts!
Moisture and updrafts matter not. Look at me. Judge me by my convection do you? Hmm? Hmmm?
I love clouds, and Boulder is a never-ending and always-changing nebular cloudscape of them.
Last Saturday I saw this out my home office window:
It was gorgeous! It’s a lenticular (lens-shaped) orographic cloud; a cloud caused by moisture-laden air rising up and cooling as it passes over mountains. We see them here all the time just east of the Rockies, and when they get all lenticular it’s a very cool bonus.
Orographic clouds aren’t limited to the Earth you know; other planets have atmospheres with some moisture and tall mountains to overcome as well.
Some people think that science takes away the romance of nature. Those people are wrong. When I lie out in the Sun and muse about the pretty clouds over my home town, I can know that what I’m seeing happens on other planets spinning around the Sun, and I’ll just bet it’s happening somewhere on a planet orbiting some other distant sun, lost among the billions in our galaxy.
What could possibly be more romantic than that?