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NASA eyes trippy tie-dye clouds in wild nighttime view

This stunner of a satellite snap looks super psychedelic.

Swirling clouds twirl for the camera.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using VIIRS day-night band data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership.

Clouds can take on astounding shapes. A NASA satellite view showing clouds off the coast of Morocco shows just how exotic they can get. 

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Suomi NPP satellite captured the view on July 19. The swirling cloud patterns are known as von Kármán vortices, named for the physicist that first described the process that creates them. The small islands below disturb the wind flow, generating the scenic patterns. 

We've seen these eye-catching vortices before, but usually in daylight. "I don't recall having seen an image of von Kármán vortices at nighttime previously, so I would consider it rare," said Macquarie University environmental health scientist Paul Beggs in a Monday release from NASA's Earth Observatory.

Nighttime versions of these clouds patterns may not be that unusual. We're taking notice now because satellite technology has gotten better at seeing them in the dark. 

While we're looking up and seeing dragons in the clouds, the Suomi NPP satellite is looking down and seeing a Grateful Dead tie-dye t-shirt.

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