Clouds are not usually the most enthralling part of nature. But in the late spring and summer, weather conditions conspire to create noctilucent or ‘night-shining’ clouds, high-altitude clouds that glow with an electric-blue hue long after the Sun has set.
If you ever encountered a noctilucent cloud, you’ve probably never forgotten it. In part, that’s because it’s straight-up stunning but also because, if you saw it, you were probably near one of the poles. But something is happening to these clouds. They are getting brighter, more common, and they are coming to you.
The International Year of Light continues with a beautiful gallery celebrating all aspects of light: multispectral astronomical, technological innovations, bioluminescence, eclipses, and even noctilucent clouds. I'll say this for it: this is the most visually interesting and diverse "Year of..." celebration!
It's summer at the South Pole, which means it's time for the frozen continent's noctilucent clouds to make an appearance. But over the last several decades, these beautiful electric blue clouds have been appearing earlier than usual — and they're getting bigger. It's yet another example of climate change at work.
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It used to be that you could only see these shimmering cloud formations, called noctilucent clouds, if you were in the North or South Pole. But lately they've been on the move, and though they're pretty to look at, their presence away from the Poles may be sign of climate change.
The illustrious Don Pettit took this amazing picture of noctilucent clouds from space. This image is of some clouds over the arctic, glowing bright green in the middle of the night. Check out another picture of the lovely light and find out how it works, and the mystery surrounding it.
Fifty miles overhead, higher than any other formation in our planet's atmosphere, is where you'll find one of the most enigmatic classes of cloud ever observed. They're called noctilucent clouds, and they're some of the most poorly understood meteorological phenomena on Earth.
Every year around this time, mysterious electric blue clouds appear over the North and South pole. They are called noctilucent clouds and they can only be seen in deep twilight, when the Sun is below the horizon. According to NASA, "their origin is still largely a mystery":