During the Summer months of June and July, an exceptional and remarkable phenomenon is visible in our night-time skies.
Noctilucent (Latin for night shining) clouds are formed of ice crystals high up in the Earth’s atmosphere. Their extreme altitude allows the Sun’s light to reflect at a specific angle causing them to appear illuminated. Only at this time of year, when the Sun sets low below the horizon in the Northern hemisphere, can these clouds be readily visible on clear summer nights, appearing as ghostly whispers of light shimmering in the darkness of night.
As you can see from the fantastic photograph, the effects are stunning! The image by Matt Robinson was captured from Roker Beach during the early hours of a summer’s morning just before sunrise in 2015 and won him an award from Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year.
To see them, you’ll need to be a night-owl as they are best viewed about half an hour after sunset through to half an hour before sunrise. Look towards the North and spot them towards the horizon; the further North you are, the higher they appear in the sky. We have heard reports that Noctilucent clouds have been visible as far south as the South Coast of England!
Noctilucent cloud forecast
spaceweather.com offers a noctilucent cloud forecast map using images from NASA’s AIM spacecraft. The latest forecast image is shown below (these images start updating around mid-May) — look for lighter blue regions (key top left) on the dark blue background.
To see how stunning noctilucent clouds can be check out Google Images!
Good luck and happy hunting!