Feb 20, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

Explaining How Rare ‘Fallstreak Hole’ Appeared Down Under

Nov 05, 2014 05:54 PM EST

People may not be too observant to what's happening around them, or what strange things are happening above them in the cloudy skies, but when a "hole punch" cloud filled with rainbows appears just overhead it can definitely be a viral phenomenon.

Earlier this week Australians caught a glimpse of a bizarre sight in their morning sky, something that's not only rare, but also quite strange to see. Looking like a vortex for clouds, with a looming rainbow trapped in the center, Australians in Wonthaggi snapped shots of what they thought was an alien spacecraft, or rather a hole in the atmosphere. Taking to social media, the strange images garnered much attention, but as soon as the mystery was up, the strange solution was found.

Known as a "Fallstreak Hole", the cloud mass typically made of water droplets takes on a strange appearance when part of the cloud falls out leaving a hole in the center of the sky. A rather atypical scenario, that defies the typical laws of physics, the hole left at the center of the cloud is created by a very localized snowfall. Though atmospheric water droplets that from nimbus clouds are typically of the liquid variety, ice crystals can form when either temperatures fall below -40oF or when they latch onto crystalline particles introduced into the cloud.

"These 'supercooled' water droplets need a 'reason' to freeze, which usually comes in the form of ice crystals" researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say. "Planes passing through the cloud layer can bring these ice crystals [to initiate the process]."

Temperatures fall in a small portion of the cloud, creating a localized snowstorm. And in spite of the icy hole, the crystalline lattice of frozen water particles refracts sunlight resulting in a massive rainbow in the center of the cloud known commonly as a "sun dog".

And just like that, the rainbow "sun dog" became the hottest trending topic on social media sources worldwide! Got any photos of the "Fallstreak Hole" you'd like to share? Tag your posts with #ScienceTimes and we'll be sure to check them out!

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