Did 'Cloud Angel' Appear After Pope's Selection?Experts may have a more earthly explanation
Some South Florida residents thought they witnessed a miraculous sign from above on Wednesday, when a cloud bearing a striking resemblance to an angel appeared shortly after a new pope was selected at the Vatican, according to WPTV in Florida. Many grabbed cameras to document the visage, snapping shots of the pink-hued cloud, which many WPTV viewers believed was a message from God.
Still, some experts think there's a more earthly explanation for the cloud phenomenon. NBC News spoke with Ian Loxley, photo gallery editor for the Cloud Appreciation Society, who explained, "It could be cirrus, if high enough; however, it appears to be lower than the background altocumulus, which is the teaser. My best shot would be a virga remnant from an aircraft contrail."
So, why do people think they saw an otherworldly shape in the cloud? As Alan Boyle, science editor for NBC News, explains, humans experience a type of pattern recognition known as pareidolia (a Greek word meaning "wrong shape"), meaning we are so prone to recognizing faces and other human patterns, that we often associate them to inanimate objects. Consider for a moment folks who see the face of Jesus in a piece of burnt toast or even the man in the moon.
As for whether the cloud is a virga remnant or a sign of God's approval of a pope's selection -- well, we'll leave that to the eye of the beholder.
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