Ethereal Time-Lapse Video of Noctilucent Clouds

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Aug. 26 2014 9:30 AM

Noctilucent Time-Lapse

noctilucent clouds
The milky, weird glow of noctilucent clouds. Click to ennebulenate.

Photo by Göran Strand, used by permission

Man, that’s a weird title.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

But it’s accurate enough. I’ve written about noctilucent (literally, “night shining”) clouds a few times recently. These weird, high-altitude clouds appear to be more common in recent days, and it’s not clear why (global warming is one culprit). But they are visible just after sunset and before sunrise, lit by the Sun that to us on the ground is below the horizon. They take on a shimmering, silvery cast, and are quite stunning.

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Astrophotographer Göran Strand caught some in late July, and took some fascinating all-sky time-lapse video of them that shows their motion:

Neat! You can see lower-altitude (aka “normal”) clouds moving in from the east, contrasting with the much higher noctilucent ones.

These are still on my to-do list of must-see clouds, together with roll clouds and a big scary mesocyclone forming over the Midwestern plains. And an aurora, come to think of it. And a total solar eclipse, sure. And finding my own meteorite.

I’m not picky; any order of these will do. As bucket lists go, this seems doable. I have my feet on the ground ... but my head in the clouds.