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An iridescent, multi-hued cloud phenomenon was recently spotted in Costa Rica skies, and residents were left awestruck and mystified.
The spectacle in the sky was reported this past Tuesday afternoon in numerous cities including, San Jose, Parrita, Pavas, Escazu and Hatillo. Coincidentally, the sighting occurred on the country's Independence Day.
Many witnesses took to social media to post photos and video of the luminous cloud formation, with some even noting that it looked like an "end of times" scene.
Resident Joey Petit told ABC News today that he and his family were at the playground in Escazu for an Independence Day festival when his 11-year-old son, Ariel Joseph Petit first noticed the strange cloud.
"He immediately grabbed the camera and started taking video and photos," he said. "We were just so amazed. We had no idea what it was and we'd never seen anything like it."
Another Escazu resident, Jessie Montealegre, said she was also was amazed by the sky phenomenon.
"It was breathtaking," she said. "It’s like a sign of God."
Though users on social media have various theories on what caused the light formation, including aliens or UFOs, experts said the stunning view was caused by a rare weather phenomenon called "cloud iridescence."
The colorful luminescence is caused by the sun's light being refracted by water droplets and ice crystals in the cloud, said, Eladio Solano, a meteorologist with Costa Rica's National Meteorological Institute, according to Costa Rica media outlet Teletica News.
It actually is a translucent disc hovering over a storm cloud. It's a type of cloud know as Pileus, or a cap cloud, which is formed above a cumulonumbus cloud (a storm cloud) by the strong updraft. Seeing a pileus cloud indicates that the storm cloud is growing rapidly.
The colors are a cloud phenomenon known as iridescence. This occurs in transparent clouds when the droplets in the clouds are all similar sizes (typically this occurs in very young clouds). The similar sized droplets scatter light of a particular color, and small variations in the size, combined with the angle from the sun, create irregular bands of color.