From left, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, Melania Trump and President Trump during the opening of an anti-extremist center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

SAUDI PRESS AGENCY

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — A mysterious glowing orb is exerting uncanny power over the world’s social media.

President Trump, King Salman of Saudi Arabia and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt entered a darkened room filled with row after row of computers in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, on Sunday evening.

They placed their hands atop a radiant whitish sphere, which illuminated their faces like a campfire, and kept them there for nearly two minutes. The first lady, Melania Trump, who also briefly touched the object, looked on.

As images of the orb circulated on social media, Twitter users immediately took notice. They offered multiple interpretations of the sphere and of the triumvirate of world leaders bathed in its light.

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The orb’s segmented pedestal, which looked as if it might have come from the bridge of a science-fiction starship, added to the mystery. And an illuminated floor, not directly visible in the most widely circulated images, intensified the dramatic underlighting.

Critics of Mr. Trump, some of whom seem eager to see something nefarious in anything he does, appeared especially agitated. Some projected onto the images their dismay about Mr. Trump’s playing down of human rights and about the authoritarian Egyptian and Saudi governments. Bill Kristol, a prominent conservative critic of Mr. Trump, likened the group to the conclave of witches in “Macbeth.”

Many others drew on tropes from science fiction and fantasy, invoking comic-book villains, the Harry Potter novels and films, and even “The Wizard of Oz.”

Breitbart, the far-right news website that has been a champion of Mr. Trump’s campaign and his presidency, took notice as well, juxtaposing an image of the leaders with a clip showing George Lucas, the “Star Wars” creator, saying, “I may have gone too far in a few places.”

Brian Klaas, a political scientist who has been critical of Mr. Trump, likened the leaders to the evil wizard Saruman from J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.”

The real meaning of the sphere had little to do with the occult.

The occasion was the opening of a new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, based in Riyadh, and the orb was in fact a translucent globe, with the world’s waters represented in light gray and the continents in black. Its purpose appeared to be decorative.

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