In this scenario, light-bending camouflage is already in use to prevent civilians from seeing any spacecraft as they enter the atmosphere.

The question is whether it is realistic to visualize this as suddenly appearing clouds, or perhaps clouds of a specific shape.

Could there realistically be a visible cloud effect from the change in speed and maybe also direction of a spacecraft that results in clouds appearing in an unusual pattern similar to wave clouds with visible sky between each wave, but on a much smaller scale (such that a small airplane could traverse the length of it in about a half minute) and with no mountains nearby.

For more detail, I'm also imagining this cloud formation appears ahead of a larger solid cloud mass that is actually produced as part of the camouflaging effect of the spacecraft.

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    $\begingroup$ the title contains "skids from braking", the text not. Can you clarify? $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Sep 24 '17 at 6:27
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    $\begingroup$ Bad idea. You say you already have stealthy space ships, right? It is hard to see it because it blends into the sky. So why try to muck this up by then also making it look like a cloud, something that is very conspicuous? Make up your mind: either you go for hiding, or you go for obscuring your identity. One or the other. If you try both, you are more than likely to arouse suspicion rather than diminishing it. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Sep 25 '17 at 11:25
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch Good point. Does the clarification help? $\endgroup$ – N2ition Sep 25 '17 at 12:46
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelK Could perhaps just one or the other not be quite enough to explain using both? If the light bending isn't perfect and still leaves some areas or a faint outline somewhat visible, having the cloud there too will take care of that. I'm mainly wondering if it is plausible that a small spacecraft would create enough effect to create small gravity waves clouds, or if that is only a large scale phenomenon. $\endgroup$ – N2ition Sep 25 '17 at 12:55
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    $\begingroup$ @N2ition Hold on... take two steps back and tell us: what is it that you need this for? You are trying to achieve something. Let me guess: you need this ship to be perfectly stealthed, but also that it leaves some peculiar telltale signs that gets observers suspicious, am I right? $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Sep 25 '17 at 13:04

Yes there are skid-marks from braking. We call them contrails. A contrail is formed by pressure difference above the wing causing water to precipitate out of the air. If you are aerobraking in from orbit, then you will create a huge pressure difference and end up with very visible vapour trails (aside from heating and shed parts of heatshield etc.).

So yes, it will form clouds. The issue is that they will be very long thin clouds that easily mark it as something descending from space.

  • $\begingroup$ So you wouldn't see any effect ahead of the craft caused by sudden deceleration? The idea is inspired by observing a very small patch of gravity waves clouds somewhat in the shape of a stingray, with a "tail" of small wave clouds appearing behind 7 or 8 wider ones, all of which moves just ahead of a solid cloud about 10 times larger, with the rest of the sky having no clouds in sight. Since it happens naturally, it seems like a great concept to use for a camouflaging method if not too big of a stretch for a story. $\endgroup$ – N2ition Sep 25 '17 at 13:11

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