Noctilucent Clouds - Space Cloud Season Starts Soon

Noctilucent Clouds - Space Cloud Season Starts Soon

Noctilucent Clouds -Helkivad ööpilved Kuresoo kohal.jpg


The end of May may mean the end of deep sky object observing for many but it's also the start of an exciting season of space cloud observing. Noctilucent clouds are beautiful twilight cloud structures that form high up in the atmosphere. Not truly in space but about 82km up in our atmosphere they are about as high as meteors and not far below the Aurora phenomenon. 


Why Do They Form?

Nobody really knows why they form, but they are found just below the coldest part of the atmosphere, the mesopause. One theory is that water attaches to particles left over from meteors in the upper atmosphere and freezes. This picture from the International Space Station shows how high they are.

Noctilucent clouds from the ISS


Can We See Them?

The best place on Earth for viewing these clouds is between 50 and 60 degrees latitude. This makes the UK one of the best places for observing the clouds.


What Am I Looking For?

When you look for the clouds they have a bluish hue to them and will be brighter than the background night sky. They can start to be seen from about an hour after sunset and can last the night but usually fade around midnight. The season usually starts around the end of May and progresses through to the end of July. As the season passes the displays become more impressive. Noctilucent clouds tend to be more defined than blurry normal clouds.

Have fun looking for the clouds and please share any good pictures you take. 

 

Now find more on: Observing the Night Sky

Back to Learn Astronomy

Top Image by: Martin Koitmae

Second image by: NASA


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