Noctilucent clouds are something else to watch out for during the short hours of darkness around midsummer. It doesn’t get dark enough to see the Northern Lights in the middle of the summer. However we have NLCs to keep us looking at the night skies instead!
These wispy thin brilliant white clouds, so high in the night sky, are beautiful to watch, and always wonderful to see.
What are they?
Noctilicent clouds are also known as Polar Mesospheric Clouds. They form at the edge, and coldest part, of the earth’s atmosphere. Whilst they don’t look that high, they are actually about 50 miles high. Made up of ice crystals, these almost ethereal clouds are lit by the sun after it has set, from way below our horizon.
So different from other clouds
Looking at this photograph below you can see how much brighter they are compared to ‘ordinary’ weather clouds.
When can you see them?
The NLC season from the end of May into the month of July.You need a clear sky to the north of you. It takes about 2 hours from the sunset before there is a chance that Noctilucent clouds will appear. It is difficult to predict. Sometimes the sky is clear but nothing happens!
I took these photographs last night between midnight and 2am. They were bright enough that I took some photographs on my mobile phone – and they were in focus too! It is a lovely excuse to be outside in the twilight. There was a crescent moon to the west of me, and I could walk around without a torch. I was using a tripod but my settings were much faster than if I had been photographing the Aurora.
We are very lucky here to have a clear view to the north and over the sea. The brightness of the clouds reflects on the water, lighting up the silhouettes of the coastline.