Don't worry, this cloud formation comes in peace.
Grandfather Mountain UFO Cloud
Credit: Jim Magruder |

Now here’s something you don’t see every day.

Dramatic images of a cloud formation over North Carolina’s Grandfather Mountain are getting plenty of interest after being compared to a scene from the movie Independence Day. But don’t worry, it’s not a UFO.

According to officials at Grandfather Mountain, the ominous-looking object is a lenticular cloud. These form when the mountain is whipped by high winds and covered in rime ice, a white glaze created by frozen fog.

“Such clouds—technically known as ‘altocumulus standing lenticularus’—form as strong winds blow over and around rough terrain,” the park explained in a Facebook post.

The post includes two photos taken by professional photographer Jim Magruder on the evening of January 26. Magruder, who lives in nearby Linville, says he grew up hiking Grandfather Mountain.

“The sky did remind me of a scene from the Independence Day movie when the invading alien spaceships appeared over major cities and blotted out the sun,” he said to McClatchy News.

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Magruder told Southern Living that he’s seen a few smaller lenticular clouds form over Grandfather Mountain in the past, but those dispersed in 10-15 minutes. “Never anything this big, this dense, and this long sustained,” he added.

He said there were a few other people gaping at the clouds over the mountain when he arrived.

“They were giddy with the spectacle,” Magruder recalled. “We didn’t speak more than perfunctory hellos but shared a nod of acknowledgement that we were all witnessing something really special. The air felt electric.”