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NOTE My question is different from this previous one. What could be the physics behind witches flying on broomsticks?

  • It is different because the phenomena in my question are not actually witches - they only have that appearance when seen in silhouette. They are not human or magical at all.

Background

On arriving at a far-off planet, space explorers see what appear to be witches flying around on brooms. These seem to be of the traditional type as shown in the picture. However they are not human, but some kind of local phenomenon. The silhouette looks like a witch by pure coincidence.

enter image description here

Question

Without using magic and on a roughly Earth-like planet, that has never seen humans before, what could these things be and how can they fly? I'm assuming that what look like arms, legs and hat are not actually that but some other types of appendage. For some reason they only fly at night.

Any scientific explanation is acceptable. No magic is allowed. A rough sketch of the actual anatomy or mechanism of these things would be greatly appreciated.

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  • $\begingroup$ And they only look like witches on brooms? Never, like, witches on flying chairs, or brooms without witches? $\endgroup$ – Mary Apr 15 at 0:13
  • $\begingroup$ @ Mary - They always look like the above picture when seen from the side. I'm not sure what they look like head on. $\endgroup$ – chasly - supports Monica Apr 15 at 0:29
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    $\begingroup$ Does it have to look exactly like the image above? Because thanks to the lighting in there we can clearly see the human outline and how thick the broom is, something that one usually wouldn't see during the night when you say they appear. $\endgroup$ – ProjectApex Apr 15 at 0:43
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe the real creature or silhouette need not look like the witch on the broom, It could be a human perception also because we know how a witch on a broom looks like, we superimpose our imagination and understanding of things onto something that has some similar characteristics. So your creature may look slightly different from afar, but to us it seems like this. $\endgroup$ – V.Aggarwal Apr 15 at 4:48
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    $\begingroup$ It need not be a single creature altogether, It can be a pair mating with each other, or a predator holding its struggling prey, or a swarm of insects that for some reason create a shape like that. But one thing is for sure, the aerodynamics is wrong for nature to evolve a creature into something like this. $\endgroup$ – V.Aggarwal Apr 15 at 4:53
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Depends on where the space explorers are viewing these extra-terrestrial witches.

The one I can think of is that they are shadows somehow created by light reflected upwards from below somewhere with geographic features that just so happens to look like witches IF our space-faring heroes were viewing it from space. "No magic" means that the light was reflected from ice, a wide-surface area covered by glass, or even the sea.

The only science I'm working with on this is that ice can reflect sunlight.

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