Devotees, for want of a better word, of so-called chemtrails cite photographs of weirdly shaped contrails to support their equally weird beliefs. Contrails are, of course, condensation trails: lines of clouds from jet aircraft exhaust gases that condense in the minus-40 degree upper atmosphere. Chemtrails are mythical clouds of chemicals/nerve gases/metallic salts/polymer fibers sprayed on unsuspecting civilians in a global conspiracy to screw us all up. Or something. (As if we need help!)

Chemtrailers regularly post photos or videos of oddly-shaped, or particularly long-lasting, contrails. These aren’t hard to come by; we have photos from the Second World War that would have delighted the “they’re-poisoning-our-skies” folks, had they been around then. (Nowadays, we’re asked to believe that the country’s 40,000 commercial pilots and air traffic controllers are all in on the conspiracy.) Contrail shadows cast on higher clouds, ring contrails, cross-hatched contrails—watch the skies long enough, and you’ll find evidence not just for chemtrails, but for alien visitors, weather manipulators, sylph air elementals, flying spaghetti monsters or whatever your conspiration de jour.

Part of a 1,000-ship B-17 Flying Fortress bomber stream during World War II. (US Air Force, public domain)

Of all the weird sky phenomena to “prove” that Somebody’s Doing Something Bad to us, my favorite is what’s known as the “glory.” Glories are similar to rainbows, in that the sun is at your back and sunlight is both bent and reflected off water. In the case of a rainbow, the water is in the form of falling rain, while glories are reflected from mist or clouds, that is, tiny droplets compared to rain drops.

A glory is much smaller than a rainbow, which has a radius of 42 degrees (the faint secondary bow, with inverted colors, is 52 degrees radius). Unlike a rainbow, you can see the entire circle of a glory—with you in the middle! “You” being, most commonly, the plane you’re traveling in: the sun’s high in the sky on the other side of the plane, and the shadow of the plane is projected on clouds below. Or you might be on a mountain peak, again with clouds below, as in the accompanying photo. I was standing on top of Pen y Fan, a 2,907 ft. peak in the Welsh Brecon Beacons, the noon sun high in the southern blue sky behind me, fog down in the valley to the north.

Glories, if you’re so inclined, are clear evidence that They—Opus Dei, the New World Order, Üst akıl masterminds or ancient Annunaki (take your pick)—are experimenting with focused sunlight for nefarious purposes. Soon, they’ll be using deadly “glory waves” to melt the polar caps, turn 5% of the population gay, create a drug crisis, gentrify our slums and elect a naïf as Commander in Chief.

Oh wait. Too late.