Invasion of the Noctilucent Clouds

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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Be on the lookout for unusual – and beautiful – noctilucent clouds that are invading the North American and Europe. SpaceWeather.com says that these mysterious “night shining” clouds are on the increase. Some scientists think they’re seeded by space dust. Others suspect they’re a telltale sign of global warming. Whatever the reason, they are an amazing site, appearing around sunset. Mike Hollingshead took this gorgeous image on July 14 near Blair, Nebraska USA. “I’ve never seen noctilucent clouds before, even though I am often out looking,” he said. “These were wonderful.”

See below for another NLC image from my good buddy Stuart Atkinson in the UK:

Stuart Atkinson's image of NLCs near Kendal Castle in the UK.  Credit: Stuart Atkinson

Stuart Atkinson's image of NLCs near Kendal Castle in the UK. Credit: Stuart Atkinson

Stu took his NLC images (see more on his website Cumbrian Sky) in mid-June near historic Kendal Castle in the UK (one of Henry the 8th’s wives lived there, Stu says).

SpaceWeather.com has a great gallery of NLCs, which also includes observing tips. The site says reports of these clouds are pouring in from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, South Dakota, central California and possibly northern Nevada. These sightings are significant because they come from places so far south.

When noctilucent clouds first appeared in the late 19th century, they were confined to latitudes above 50 degrees N (usually far above). The latitude of Blair, Nebraska, is only 41°30′ N. (Cumbria in the UK is about 54 degrees N.) No one knows why NLCs are expanding their range in this way; it’s one of many unanswered questions about the mysterious clouds. Find out more about NLCs here.

When and where will NLC show up next? “No idea,” said Stu. “We can’t predict them in advance. They just… appear. All we can do is keep looking, on every clear night, just in case. We do know that this summer is expected to be a very good one for NLC-spotting because they appear more at “solar minimum”, and we’re in a deep, deep minimum now, so all we can do is keep an eye on the sky, and cross our fingers!”

And if you love clouds of all kinds, check out Mike Hollingshead’s website, Extreme Instability, which hosts an absolutely amazing collection of cloud images.

Source: SpaceWeather.com, Mike Hollingshead, Cumbrian Skies


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