What’s that strange sight high up there in the sky? It doesn’t look like a bird. Could it be an airplane? Maybe it’s a UFO! Nope! None of the above — it’s just a cloud.

It might not just be any type of cloud, though. If it looks a bit like an unidentified flying object, chances are it’s a special type of cloud called a lenticular cloud.

Lenticular clouds get their name from the fact that they’re shaped like a lens or a saucer. This is why they’re also sometimes called “flying saucer clouds” and sometimes mistaken for UFOs. Some other nicknames for lenticular clouds include “cloudships,” “clouds of heaven” and “lennies.” They also have a fancy scientific name: Altocumulus lenticularis.

Although lenticular clouds may look like they’re from outer space, they’re actually just the result of normal earthly scientific processes. Lenticular clouds are stationary clouds that form at high altitudes in the sky. They’re usually aligned at a right angle (perpendicular) to the direction of the wind.

For example, when stable humid air blows over the top of a mountain range, it often forms a group of big waves on the downwind side of the mountain range. If the temperature is low enough on the downwind side, the moisture in the air will condense to form uniquely-shaped clouds we know as lenticular clouds.

If the conditions are right, these groups of wave after wave of lenticular clouds can form what scientists call a “wave cloud.” Lenticular clouds are also unique in that sometimes you may see bright colors — what scientists call irisation — along the edges of the clouds. This can give them a definite outer space feeling!

Airplane pilots will usually try to avoid flying near lenticular clouds. The waves of air that form the clouds can cause turbulence, which means riding in an airplane near lenticular clouds can be a bouncy, scary experience.

People that fly gliders, however, love lenticular clouds. The same air currents that can make flying in an airplane scary allow gliders to sail to great heights and long distances.

 

104 Join the Discussion

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    • You’re on a roll with correct guesses about future Wonders, Rahul! WAY TO GO! We like your guess for tomorrow’s Wonder, too! Have a WONDERful day today and THANKS for visiting today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  1. Can you do a wonderopolis about Dori`s song “Just Keep Swimmin`” in Finding Nemo? Thank you if you can.
    Also some of your wonders are kinda cool!

    • Hello, Soccer Geek! Thanks for letting us know that you think some of the Wonders here in Wonderopolis are cool! We really appreciate hearing that! Also, THANK YOU for telling us your idea for a future Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • That’s a REALLY great question, Jenna! We think it would make a GREAT future Wonder of the Day®! Thanks so much for suggesting it and THANKS for visiting Wonderopolis today! :-)

  2. In mario super sunshine for gamecube along time ago you have to travel by hovering with a water jet from cloud to cloud to receive a shine sprite to win the level. I love mario games for television games systems y’all should do either a wonder on mario or history gaming systems.

  3. Lenticular clouds get their name from the fact that they’re shaped like a lens or a saucer. They’re actually just the result of normal earthly scientific processes. Lenticular clouds are stationary clouds that form at high altitudes in the sky. Even I knew that..

    • Thanks for sharing some of your favorite parts of today’s Wonder about lenticular clouds, Sydney! We appreciate you hanging out in Wonderopolis and learning new things with us today! :-)

  4. I have never seen one of those clouds before. They’re cool it looks like a rainbow. I think tomorrow’s wonder is going to be about the dentist and braces.

    • They’re really cool to look at, we agree, Kamryn! We’re glad you learned some awesome new facts about clouds today! We really like your guess for tomorrow’s Wonder…it would be WONDERful to WONDER about the dentist and braces! :-)

  5. This is the coolest thing ever! When I watched the video, I was wondering why they reappear and then disappear. Why? Thanks.

    • You’re not the only Wonder Friend who’s WONDERing more about clouds after exploring today’s Wonder, Anna, and we think that’s SUPER! We also think your WONDER about why clouds appear and disappear would make a really awesome future Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • We’ll all have to wait and see what we’ll be WONDERing about tomorrow, Anna, but we really like your guess! :-)

    • We think these clouds look cool, too, Gloria! We encourage you to explore today’s Wonder to find out what a lenticular cloud actually is! :-)

  6. We think tomorrow’s wonder of the day will be about braces…. Just to let y’all know we both have them…. what is the most and least popular color(s) picked?

    • We think it would be GREAT FUN to learn about braces, Stefani and KD! Thanks for sharing that you both wear them! We’re not sure which are the most and least popular colors of bands for braces. It would be cool to find that out, too! :-)

    • We’re glad you’re a friend of Wonderopolis, “Wonder,” and we’re glad you liked today’s Wonder of the Day®! We like to say…WONDERing leads to learning and learning makes us all smarter! :-)

    • Hello, Eli! Thanks for again supporting Rahul’s guess for tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day®! We think it ROCKS that you guys guess the same things! :-)

  7. I saw a bunch of these clouds in the mountain. One question what makes lenticular clouds look the way they do?

    • We like the extra WONDERing you are doing about lenticular clouds today, Ellen! You can learn what gives these special clouds their signature shape by re-exploring today’s Wonder (here’s a hint: it has something to do with the wind!). Have a WONDERful day! :-)

    • They are really cool, we agree, Eli! Thanks for hanging out in Wonderopolis and learning about lenticular clouds with us today! :-)

  8. Our teacher, Mr. Draper, and our class, have never heard of lenticular clouds! Those clouds were very cool and we wish they happened around us, but we live in a low altitude area. Have you ever seen a lenticular cloud? They really look like UFO’s. We think tomorrow’s wonder might be about how braces were invented. How low can the clouds get? Have a FANTABULOUS day!

    • You guys are AWESOME for leaving us another great comment today, Mr. Draper’s Class! We are proud of you for WONDERing more about lenticular clouds! We haven’t seen a lenticular cloud in person, but the pictures we have seen are AMAZING! We can now understand how some people might mistake them for UFOs. We’re not sure how low the clouds can get, either, but now you’ve got us WONDERing about that!

      We really like your idea for what tomorrow’s Wonder might be about. We better BRACE ourselves for some WONDERful learning tomorrow! :-)

  9. I think tomorrow’s wonder is about braces. I have to get braces this August. I really do not want to. I was thinking maybe you could post a wonder about how to read and make codes.

    • Thanks for sharing what you think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about, Liam! We have some really AMAZING Wonder guessers leaving us comments today…thank you for being one of them! :-)

  10. I like that the clouds were moving and making different shapes. (Preston)

    I like that because they look like alien ships. (Sylvie-Aganoti)

    Have a great day Wonderopolis!

    • Those are SUPER comments, Preston and Sylvie-Aganoti! You and your KF Dragons classmates are AWESOME and we really enjoy hearing from you guys! Thanks for wishing us a great day…we hope you have a WONDERful one, too! :-)

    • Way to go, Lucy! We’re super proud of you! Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis today and letting us know you learned something new about clouds…we did, too! :-)

  11. We had never heard of lenticular clouds before. We hope to see one soon!

    We think tomorrow’s WONDER might be about braces! Braces help straighten out people’s teeth so they have a beautiful smile.

    Have a WONDERful day!!! :-)

    • We hope you guys get to see a lenticular cloud soon, too, Miss Kirsten’s Kindergarten GT Class! That would be such a special treat! We appreciate you guys leaving us a comment each time you explore a Wonder of the Day® together! Your comments make us really happy! :-)

  12. Hello wonderopolis!
    I loved the wonder today! I wonder what is next! Thank you for picking my teacher, Mrs. Phillips, to be a wonder teacher! I think tomorrow’s wonder is about braces. I wonder what clouds are made of?

    Have a wondering day wonderopolis!

  13. We enjoyed learning about lenticular clouds. We thought it looked like sound waves though, not a UFO. We were wondering about how scientists come up with scientific names?

    • We’re glad you guys let us know what you thought the lenticular clouds looked like, Mrs. Williams Class! We think WONDERing how scientists come up with scientific names is an AWESOME idea for a future Wonder of the Day®! Thanks so much for suggesting it! :-)

  14. Wonderopolis, the lenticular clouds DO look like UFOs. We agree with our friends in Mr. Draper’s class. You shared some very awesome pictures with us. Thank you for making learning fun and interesting!

    We are BRACING ourselves for tomorrow’s WONDER of the day. Could it be, “Who invented braces?”

    Miss Thomasson had braces and our friend Benny has braces right now!

    • Happy Wednesday, Miss Thomasson’s Class! We really appreciate your comment today! Thank you for exploring the comments some of our other Wonder Friends (like Mr. Draper’s class) left for us, too! It’s AWESOME that you shared some of the personal connections you guys have to wearing braces. We WONDER if BRACES really ARE what we will all be WONDERing about tomorrow? :-)

    • That sounds like such a AWESOME way to WONDER about clouds, Shyanne! Thank you for sharing your comment with us! It’s FUN to share what we think the cloud shapes represent, isn’t it? :-)

    • We’re not sure about that one, Kabir, but it’s something really FUN to WONDER about! Thank you for leaving us such a GREAT comment today and THANKS for visiting Wonderopolis! :-)

    • You are not alone, Jenna! Most of our Wonder guessers today agree with you about tomorrow’s Wonder! We are really excited to visit Wonderopolis in the morning to see if all of you CREATIVE, SMART Wonder Friends are correct! :-)

  15. Todays Wonder was WONDERful. Why are clouds white why can’t they be blue or purple, yellow, pink or orange :)?

    • We like the way you WONDER, Arianna! We think it would be WONDERful if clouds could be all those colors! We have seen pink clouds at sunrise and sunset here in Wonderopolis, but we think it might have just been the reflection of the sun. They were sure pretty clouds, though…kind of like cotton candy! Speaking of cotton candy, check out this past Wonder of the Day®:

      Wonder #61 – Who Invented Cotton Candy? http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/who-invented-cotton-candy/ :-)

    • It makes us REALLY happy to hear that you think today’s wonder is awesome AND cool, Emily! Thanks for letting us know that…we’re glad you enjoyed your Wonderopolis visit today! :-)

  16. Hi wonderopolis, I know that you guys are such a big hit.
    How did you guys make the clouds go up.
    Also, we are huge fans. Where do you guys live? Do you guys live there all night, or do you take shifts with other people? That would been cool to see.

    Kabir

    • You ask cool questions, Kabir! We’re glad you do! We look high and low for the best videos to accompany each Wonder of the Day®. We don’t make most of the videos ourselves here in Wonderopolis, but instead we showcase AWESOME videos that other Wonder Friends make and post to video libraries like You Tube and Vimeo. We really liked the cloud video, so we’re glad you did, too!

      Thanks for letting us know you and your classmates (and Mrs. Thiessen) are such big fans of Wonderopolis! We REALLY appreciate hearing that! There are LOTS of cool people who live and work here in Wonderopolis, so we help each other out and work together as a team to share the best Wonders we possibly can! :-)

  17. Wonderopolis

    I liked today’s wonder, but it’s not really my favorite! My questions about this wonder are is: Why do clouds look fluffy? Or How do clouds become gray? Also How do clouds make rain? My teacher is Mrs.Thiessen! She is WONDERful!!! We have Wonder Wednesday too! I also think that tomorrow’s wonder is going to be about how you get braces or why you need braces!

    Have a WONDERful Wednesday!!

    Mikayla T

  18. How do the clouds move so quickly? Is this real? Or is this random? How long did it take to make this video?

    • Those are all GREAT questions, Husnain! We’re not sure how long it took to make the video we featured in today’s Wonder of the Day®. Because we select videos from places like You Tube and Vimeo to include with our Wonders, sometimes we don’t know very much about how they were made or who made them (we just think they are AWESOME additions to our Wonders!)! The reason the clouds in the video seem to move so quickly is because the video is shot over a long period of time and then “sped up” so we can see lots of time in just a little bit of time. It’s called time-lapsed photography! :-)

  19. My prediction was right because I thought of clouds! I haven’t thought of clouds with names? I wonder why clouds move so slow? I also wonder why clouds are always white and then when it rains or when it’s stormy outside the clouds turn grey? Is it possible for clouds to turn black or blue or any other color? I wonder why when it is really hot and sunny the clouds go away? I wonder where they go? :) This video is interesting and shows you how clouds move! :) I like Wonderopolis! Clouds are an interesting things to learn about! Is this cloud video edited? I wonder how many types of clouds there are? I wonder how many clouds there are in the sky? I am having a wonderful day today!

  20. Hey Wonderopolis, I like this video. I don’t love it, but it looked cool. It kind of looked like they were using high-speed-camera right? I love yesterday’s wonder-of-the-day. Anyway you should come on our blog more often. Here’s a link: http://mrstsgrade3sclassblog.blogspot.ca/.
    BYE

    Sincerely:
    Mushkale

    • We just visited your classroom blog again, Mushkale! Thanks for reminding us that we need to stop by more often! You guys did a WONDERful job on your marshmallow-spaghetti towers! We’re super proud of you! We really appreciate you letting us know what you thought about today’s Wonder, too. YOU ARE AN AWESOME WONDER FRIEND and we think you ROCK! :-)

    • Happy Wednesday, Isha! We think it’s really great that you guys celebrate Wonder Wednesday! Isn’t Mrs. Thiessen an AMAZING teacher? We think it is AWESOME that she inspires you guys to WONDER and see the world around you in new, exciting, WONDERful ways!

      Lenticular clouds got their name because they are shaped like a lens (or a saucer). The three letters “l-e-n” are found in both words…lens and lenticular! :-)

  21. Hi wonderopolis my name is Maven. Do you no what the clouds are made of? Where do clouds come from? Why do the clouds move so fast?
    Can you please leave a comment? Bye.

  22. I wonder why only thunder clouds make sound it’s strange. Do you know how long this video is, because I don’t know. I wonder why clouds are white cause all my family + best friends are wondering and same as me. Bye =)

    • Hello, Aidan! We did a little more WONDERing about the length of this Wonder video after we read your comment and found out that the video is one minute and 21 seconds in length. But! What’s really cool is because the video is time-lapsed (a longer period of time sped up to make the video shorter and let us see everything that happened in the long period of time a bit quicker), we discovered that every second of the video equals one minute of real time! That means the time that elapsed during the shooting of the video was actually one hour and 21 minutes and they sped it up to be one minute and 21 seconds! Pretty cool, huh? :-)

  23. Hi Wonderopolis ,
    Thank you for telling us about Altocumulus lenticularis. :D. We really ENJOYED today’s video. We think tomorrows wonder will be about braces! : D
    From Kiran & Navleen

    • Way to go for using the scientific name for a lenticular cloud, Kiran and Navleen! That’s really impressive! We’re glad you guys enjoyed today’s Wonder of the Day®. Thanks for being friends of Wonderopolis! :-)

  24. Hey guys. I never ever knew clouds were different. I thought they all were all the same. That mouse one yesterday was so funny and my birthday is July 5th, two and a half months away. I can’t wait its going to be the best. But please, please tell me where you live, but again please, please don’t say Wonderopolis. I’m begging you. Please tell me I swear I won’t tell anyone, please. :( And can you do a wonder about video games?

    • Hi, Dominic! One of the AWESOME things about visiting Wonderopolis is that when our Wonder Friends stop by, they know they are visiting a super special place where they can explore, share, and learn new things every day! We think there’s a little bit of WONDER in not knowing everything about Wonderopolis and being surprised about each new day’s discovery, don’t you think? We hope you understand what we’re saying (wink, wink), and don’t get too upset that when we say we really do live in Wonderopolis. We are ALL a part of this WONDERful Wonderopolis! :-)

      Did you know that there is a great past Wonder about video games? It’s Wonder #467 – How Can Video Games Be Good for You? http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/how-can-video-games-be-good-for-you/. :-)

  25. HEY HEY HEY!!!! I really enjoy this website and all the cool wonders of the day. I have to say that this website is awesome! I always wanted to learn about clouds and even today I asked my mom are there different types of clouds and what makes clouds? I learn sooooo much from this website and I love learning new things! Thanks for making wonderopolis.org

    From your friend Caleb

    • It’s SO AWESOME that you were WONDERing about clouds and then today’s Wonder of the Day® was about clouds, Caleb! We love it when WONDERful coincidences like that happen! Thanks for letting us know you enjoy learning new things in Wonderopolis…we do, too! We hope you visit us again very soon! :-)

  26. Dear Wonderopolis,
    I have no idea what a lenticular cloud is!!! But now I do!!! I think tomorrow’s wonder is about the stars!!!
    Love Always,
    Paige :)

    • It’s so SUPER to hear from you, Paige! We hope you are doing well! Thanks for letting us know you learned some cool new stuff about lenticular clouds by exploring this Wonder of the Day®! We think that ROCKS! :-)

  27. I love this wonder. You should do a wonder on softballs and why they are yellow and the next wonder is about jokes. I <3 WONDEROPOLIS!!!!

    • You’re quite welcome, Isha! We hope you, Mrs. Thiessen and ALL of your WONDERful classmates have a SUPER day! :-)

    • They are pretty cool to learn about, aren’t they, TJ? We think you’re GREAT for stopping by this Wonder and leaving us a cool comment today! :-)

  28. I love learning about weather, we have clouds all people have have clouds. I have lots of wonders!

    Rylie from Mrs. Phillips’ wonderful class

  29. We are learning about weather in science class and clouds are a big part of it. It is really fun to learn about different types of clouds.

  30. I have seen one of those clouds before. I admit I did think It was a UFO and I took a picture of it. Now reading this I feel foolish :) but I do wonder if Unidentified Flying Objects exist. What is a UFO? What are Aliens, and should we be afraid of them? I think they exist but, there is no proof so if anybody DOES find proof, please put it on this website. I would like to know from you :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is a lenticular cloud?
  • What are some other nicknames for lenticular clouds?
  • How do lenticular clouds form?

 

Wonder Gallery

lenticular cloud_shutterstock_92188330Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to make your own cloud? That’s right! You can make your very own cloud with nothing more than some warm water, an empty two-liter bottle and some matches.

You will want to get an adult’s help with this fun science experiment. For step-by-step instructions, just jump online and check out the Cloud in a Bottle experiment.

If you can, take some pictures of your cloud in a bottle. Feel free to post them on Facebook to share with your Wonder Friends. Good luck and have fun!

 

Still Wondering

Use ReadWriteThink’s Lonely as a Cloud: Using Poetry to Understand Similes lesson to identify similes in poetry and gain experience in using similes as a poetic device in your own work.

 

Wonder What’s Next?

Brace yourself! Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day may make you smile.

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