Look north in June and July from the Canadian Prairies and you are likely to see iridescent clouds shimmering in the mid-summer twilight.
It’s been a good couple of nights for sighting noctilucent clouds – literally “night shining” clouds, or NLCs. These are odd water vapour clouds that form at the edge of space 80 km up where no self-respecting cloud has a right to exist.
But there they are. Existing and moving in waves in a near vacuum.
We see them because at solstice time the Sun’s light pours over the pole (where the midnight Sun is shining) and lights up the clouds that hang over the Canadian Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
From the Prairies we see them far in the distance to the north, as here, shining low on the horizon amid the deep blues and reds of a perpetual twilight that never ends on our short summer nights.
The top photo, taken Saturday night, is a 5-section panorama with a short telephoto lens. The bottom image, taken early this morning, is just the opposite – a very wide angle shot showing the clouds in context, with the Big and Little Dippers at top left and centre.
Some images and movies from last year’s NLC season are in my blog post from June 27, 2013.
– Alan, June 23, 2014 / © 2014 Alan Dyer
It was a beautiful summer evening, with stars wheeling overhead in a moonlit sky and the only clouds far away and interesting.
This was one of those nights we get once or twice a summer when the much-anticipated noctilucent clouds – the clouds of summer – put on a perfect show. In my previous post I featured an image from early in the night, last night, June 26, 2013.
These are images and time-lapse movies from later in the night. The composite image above shows stars trailing over 90 minutes with the brilliant noctilucent clouds on the horizon, and fringed by a rosy glow of red twilight where the southern edge of the cloud display, which sits over the Northwest Territories, is being lit by a setting Sun with red sunlight filtering through our atmosphere as it passes over the North Pole.
This telephoto lens shot above captures a close-up of the rosy-fringed noctilucent clouds, behind a lightning-lit thunderstorm rolling through storm alley in central Alberta. The storms can stay there! We’ve had enough of them for a while!
My time-lapse sequence extends over about 90 minutes and opens with a wide-angle view of the display as it appeared low on the horizon. What follows are two closeup views that really show the intricate wave-like motion of these high-altitude mesospheric clouds, and their changing lighting and colours.
These are beautiful clouds drifting on the edge of space but it takes time-lapse to reveal their fluid-like motion.
– Alan, June 27, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
Two very different forms of clouds drift along the horizon: a thunderstorm nearby and low, and noctilucent clouds far away and high.
This was the scene last night, as another thunderstorm to the north of me rolled along the horizon drifting away to the east. A bolt of lightning illuminates the storm clouds. The thunderstorm was over central Alberta, and at the bottom of our atmosphere, in the troposphere.
Meanwhile, in the background, a beautiful display of noctilucent clouds crept along the horizon in the other direction, drifting to the west. These clouds were over the Northwest Territories, a thousand or more kilometres away to the north and 80 to 100 kilometres high, at the top of the atmosphere in the mesosphere.
The NLC display lasted all night, or for at least as long as I was able to stay up and shoot.
This is a telephoto lens shot that zooms into the brightest part of the NLC display.
– Alan, June 27, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
Colourful sky phenomena combine to provide a remarkable sky show.
What a night this was! On Sunday, June 9 the aurora kicked off with a burst in the bright twilight but really got going as the sky got dark, shooting beams of magenta and blue up from the main green arc.
Then on cue, streamers of noctilucent clouds appeared low in the north, shining with their characteristic electric blue. These are odd clouds at the edge of space lit by sunlight streaming over the Pole.
Both these apparitions of the upper atmosphere glowed above a horizon rimmed with the orange of perpetual twilight set in a deep blue background sky.
Yes, the camera has brought out the colours more intensely than the eye saw, but nevertheless it was a remarkable evening close to solstice. This is a magical time of year when all kinds of sky glows light the night.
This night the European Einstein ATV cargo craft also flew over, twice, each time about 10 minutes ahead of the even brighter Space Station that it is chasing for a docking later this week.
More images to come from this night, including time-lapses of the Lights and Clouds.
– Alan, June 10, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer