Recently, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano spent a “night flight” in the Cupola of the International Space Station in hopes of capturing night-time images of his home country from space. But he saw so much more, including this incredible image of the crescent Moon rising among bright blue noctilucent clouds. These wispy and mysterious clouds appear in Earth’s mesosphere — a region extending from 30 to 53 miles (48-85 km) high in the atmosphere — at twilight, usually in early summer. They can be seen from Earth’s northern hemisphere and, obviously, are visible from space too.
You can read about Parmitano’s night flight and see more of the images he took at his Volare blog. At the close of his image-taking night flight he says, “It’s late, and tomorrow will be a long day. With those lights still filling my eyes, I slowly close the seven windows and cross the Station to return to my sleeping pod. Not even dreams could replace the beautiful reality that revolves, oblivious, beneath us.”
Find out more about the science of noctilucent clouds here in our recent article by Bob King.
Below is another image of noctilucent clouds taken by Parmitano on July 28, 2013: