It’s Noctilucent Cloud Season!


It’s summer (well, OK, technically next week it is summer) but it’s the time of year that northern latitudes can see the beautiful, awe inspiring atmospheric phenomena called Noctilucent Clouds, or night shining clouds. They aren’t like regular cumulus or cirrus clouds, but are mysterious and unique high atmosphere cloud formations thought to be composed of small ice-coated particles. How they form and why is not well understood, and usually the best time to see them is at twilight when the high altitude clouds are backlit by the sun. But Stu Atkinson in England sent in these great images of NLC’s, which he took in the wee hours of the morning (he woke up at 1:30 am) from the stunning location of Kendal Castle. He’s got more at his website, Cumbrian Sky.

Noctilucent clouds in Lancashire taken by Mark Purvis in 2009.

This image was sent in by UT reader Mark Purvis, who wrote, “This is an image I took in Beacon point in Lancashire. It was taken on the 21st July 2009 at 23:30(ish) with an Olympus E-400.”

Another look at Noctilucent clouds over Kendal Castle, England. Credit: Stuart Atkinson

If you have taken some images of NLC’s send them to Nancy and we’ll post them.

For more NLC images, see’s gallery.

Here’s a link to some NLC pictures (plus a Comet McNaught photo) taken in Germany, also taken in the early morning hours, about 2:30 am local time.

Check out this link for a NLC FAQ.

And here’s some observing tips from Look west 30 to 60 minutes after sunset when the Sun has dipped 6 degrees to 16 degrees below the horizon. If you see luminous blue-white tendrils spreading across the sky, you may have spotted a noctilucent cloud. High-northern latitudes are favored.

Thanks again to Stu for sending us his images.

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