Picture of the
Mysterious blue clouds return in force, June & July 2009
It's summer, the Sun is at its lowest level of activity for many years, the globe is warming up, rocket and Space Shuttle launches are injecting water into the upper atmosphere - what does this mean? Well, excellent conditions for Noctilucent Clouds, delicate blue wisps of smoke-sized ice crystals that form around 80km (50 miles) above the Earth, on the very edge of space.
Why they have increased in intensity and frequency over recent years is something of a mystery, but 2009 has proved good for them so far, with exceptional displays even in the south of England...
A delicate wave structure is revealed in a display that was seen extensively from the UK and Europe.
Click the picture or here to see more pictures that I have taken, including an impressive appearance in the early hours of 19th June 2009.
To see them for yourself look to the north around 1.5 hours after sunset or before dawn during June and July. They are not always present but you may be in for a treat. These clouds are not to be confused with normal cirrus clouds - the usual highest ones that are seen. They will be dark at this time of the night (unless glowing orange from the light pollution of a nearby city), while the NLCs are still in sunlight at such extreme altitude.
See Spaceweather for pictures from around the world.
It had been 3 years since I had previously seen Noctilucent Clouds from the UK but a trip to Iceland in August 2008 revealed them - we had a clearer view of them than the eclipse our visit was supposed to see!
Picture added on 15 July 2009
- Comet 17P Holmes:
The comet that exploded in October 2007
- Total Lunar Eclipse:
A clear night allowed a complete view from start to finish, 3 - 4 March 2007
- Comet McNaught C/2006 P1:
The brightest comet in a generation, January 2007
- Harvest Moon Eclipse:
Only a partial eclipse but still a wonderful sight rising over the hills of
Kent, 7 Sept 2006
- Noctilucent Clouds:
Ice crystals on the very edge of space, 14 July 2006
- Dark Sun over the Sahara:
A spectacular total eclipse of the Sun seen from the Libyan desert, 29 March
- Ring of Fire: An
annular eclipse of the Sun over Spain, 3 Oct 2005
- A Southern Hemisphere Lunar Eclipse: A total eclipse seen from Argentina, 28 - 29
- Transit of Venus across the Sun: The first for 122 years, 8 June 2004
- A Quick tour of the Solar System: Four planets and three moons, 9 April 2004
- Fireworks Eclipse of the Moon: A total eclipse on fireworks night, 9 Nov 2003
- Sunstorm: Three
huge sunspots cause havoc, and wonderful aurorae (for those with clear skies),
27 Oct 2003
- Mars: closest approach
to Earth in 60,000 years, 30 Aug 2003
- Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Islands: An ancient stone circle in a barren northern
land, 8 Jun 2003
- Mercury Transit: The planet Mercury caught in a rare transit across the face
of the Sun, 7 May 2003
- Diamond Ring: a short but stunning
total solar eclipse in the Australian Outback, 4 Dec 2002
- Concrete Cows in
Milton Keynes, 16 Aug 2002
- International Space Station passes over Hay on Wye, 4 June 2002
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