Strange pattern in cloud ... Surrey UK


New Member
image.jpeg image.jpeg afternoon everyone
I spotted this cloud shape on Saturday near Hampton Court in Surrey UK
I took a couple of pics with my phone ... See attached
A perfect circle in the clouds 100's of feet across ??
It stayed like that for at least 5 minutes before it disappeared
I spotted it and a fellow dog walker who saw me taking pics of the sky ....she stopped and looked amazed !!

Any suggestions ??
There were NO planes or helicopters around the area ?

Mick West

Staff member
It's a distrail - the passage of a plane disrupted the clouds, leaving a gap. There are a few types of distrail, but this looks like the downwash and wake vortices pushing the clouds aside


New Member
Thankyou Mick
The odd thing is there were no planes around the area at the time ...
As you may be aware it's not too far from Heathrow, and I see planes, and helicopters (military and civilian) fly by very regularly (I'm certain a plane wouldn't do a full circle so low or so close to Heathrow)
And it was a perfect circle which looked very odd .... The photo didn't show the full circle very clearly

I accept your theory .. But still unsure if this was caused by an aeroplane
Thankyou any way ...


Staff member
Was there actually a full circle? I can't tell from the photos - it looks more like just over half a circle, but the more distant part is hard to see. Could you tell us what time the photo was taken (the phone should indicate the exact time)?

Planes do often fly near-circles at low altitudes near Heathrow. For instance this is a screenshot from Flightradar24 as I type. Not near your location, but not far from LHR.

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New Member
It was a full perfect circle ... from what I could see from ground level and this is what initially caught my eye (but the pics didn't show it very clearly)
I also tried to take a video too but that didn't work.. I just managed to take a few more pics which are blurred
It was 9.45am and I was walking the dog in Hurst Park, near Hampton court, Surrey.
Having looked at a map I was looking in a South Easterly direction

Hope this helps ??


Staff member
I've found a couple of candidates:


This was the position at 9:40am on Saturday. Your location was near where the plane is in the screenshot, so the circle was to your south.

This is a couple of minutes later (time is in GMT, so add one hour for BST)


Bear in mind that the distrail would only form when the plane is at the right height, so even a double loop might only make one circle.

Mick West

Staff member
What time exactly was the photo taken?

It does not show a "full perfect circle" in your photos.


Staff member
Actually it looks as though lots of planes were circling just to the south of your location on Saturday morning:

Red circle is your location (Hurst Park)





New Member
This info is excellent and I can understand how this would cause the phenomena that I witnessed !
And really glad it could be explained
The 2nd one at 8.45 BA202 looks possible .... Especially if the wind was blowing from west to east, as this would blow the cloud towards the south east of my location AND it's a complete circle ;-)
Thanks again
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New Member
As trail blazer said the timing are GMT so add a hour .... So 8.45 would be 9.45 and that's 9.45 and about the time I spotted it

Mick West

Staff member
How long do/can distrails last?

Essentially as long as the cloud layer retains its structure. On higher, more stable cloud layers it can last over an hour. On lower layers like this there's more "turnover" and the distrail might become hard to see in just a few minutes.

If you look at any time-lapse video of clouds, you see the biggest factor with high level clouds is just them moving out of view. Lower level clouds also move rapidly, but have much more appearing and disappearing, like:
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