What is the Black Ring of Leamington Spa? A vortex ring

A strange siting over Warwick Castle actually DOES have an explanation that does not signal anything occult or supernatural.

Mysterious Black Circle Sighted in the Sky Over Leamington Spa.

Weather experts are baffled by the appearance of a black ring in the sky above Leamington Spa on Friday evening.

Schoolgirl Georgina Heap was playing tennis with her mother Jo Heap when she saw the mysterious black ring in the sky near Warwick Castle.

The ring remained in the sky for around three minutes before disappearing completely.

It supposedly hung there “floating like a cloud”. There were no fires recorded and meteorologists said it wasn’t a weather event. Bees? Birds? Unlikely. A true mysterious natural phenomenon.

It’s really neat-looking and, as is guaranteed, is sparking claims of witchcraft and end times.

The explanation is not out of reach, however. While this sighting may be one in a million to the viewers, it’s happened plenty of times before. They are known as vortex rings and are often remnants of explosions:

In most instances, the rings are formed by air mixed with smoke or steam that is forced out of a (relatively) small circular or cylindrical opening (this can be a chimney, the barrel of a canon, or a vent in a volcano crater). Because of the drag of the surface of the opening, the air expelled from the centre will move faster than the air exiting the opening near the edge. The air from the sides is sucked in, and a circular motion is created. In this way, a doughnut-shaped vortex is formed, just like a smoke ring that is blown from a smoker’s lips. The ring-shape is maintained due to the rotational motion of the air flowing in the vortex ring.

Black Ring of Leamington Spa (vortex ring)

Black Ring of Leamington Spa (vortex ring)

As noted in this excellent piece, this Leamington Spa ring behaves in the way that others have behaved, travelling “at a constant speed, maintaining the same horizontal or vertical position until they break up.” See more examples at that site too.

Here is one that occurred from an explosion last year in Florida. It looks remarkably identical.

I’m amazed Nick Pope, the UFO expert didn’t mention this as an explanation. In fact, NO source seemed to mention this yet I found it in short order recalling that such smoke rings had been seen before. That’s the amazing part – that people can’t google.

You can even launch your own smoke rings. Maybe that’s what this event was.

Smoke Launcher motocheese (youtube)

Smoke Launcher motocheese (youtube)

Smoke Launcher motocheese (youtube)


SKYbrary – Vortex Ring.


Tip: @skep_challenged on Twitter

UPDATE: We have the source of the smoke.

A Warwick Castle spokesman said they had been testing “fire effects” to go with the daily firing of the Trebuchet Fireball – a giant catapult.

“We’ve seen a number of different effects, including the vortex images that have been reported,” the spokesman said. “As yet we don’t know what causes the phenomenon but it’s certainly a spooky spectacle.”

And everything is wrapped up…

  9 comments for “What is the Black Ring of Leamington Spa? A vortex ring

  1. Bob
    April 15, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    Is it me or does it look like there is a smoke trail from it to the chimney in the background?

  2. Sam
    April 15, 2014 at 9:42 AM

    I think you’re right, It doesn’t have to be an explosion, per se, a delayed ignition in an oil-fired boiler will cause the same effect, with the smoke being expelled in a similar burst out the chimney.

  3. One Eyed Jack
    April 15, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    I prefer my smoke rings on a brisket, like the one I plan to smoke tomorrow.

    Nom, nom, nom… meat candy.

  4. WMcCreery
    April 15, 2014 at 11:21 AM

    I am so tired of hearing about the “End Times” I almost wish that it would happen!!

  5. Dan Green
    April 15, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    I’ve attended the Burning Man festival many times, and on more than one occasion there was a person there creating smoke rings just like this with a contraption he hauled on a trailer. Probably the same sort of rig that’s shown in your photos, In the right weather conditions, the rings would last for several minutes as they got larger and puffier. Pretty, but not baffling.

  6. J
    April 15, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    Accoring to the BBC some people in the area were “testing “fire effects” to go with the daily firing of the Trebuchet Fireball – a giant catapult.”


    Though it seems what causes the rings to form like that is still up for debate.

  7. Sixtyfour
    April 15, 2014 at 10:13 PM

    Vortex rings are the bane of this cyclist’s life. I cycle to work in Jakarta and many of the city’s millions (yes!) small motor bikes have slightly upward facing exhausts which blow out foul rings of exhaust gases up to two or three metres behind the bike and hitting me as regular puffs of gas right in the face. You can’t usually see them but feel and taste them you certainly can!

  8. Chris Howard
    April 15, 2014 at 11:19 PM

    Mmmm! Love me some good bark!

  9. Peebs
    April 16, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    “The barrel of a canon”?

Comments are closed.