Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds on Earth, and they have been visible in portions of the Northern U.S. over the past few days.
Noctilucent clouds are much different compared to the terrestrial ones, and they’re also extremely rare. These can only occur under strict atmospheric conditions that are visible only during a handful of weeks each year. This happened to be right now.
The clouds were seen in Oregon, on Sunday evening but also in a few other locations the past few days, including Nevada, Minnesota and across the Atlantic Ocean in the United Kingdom.
When were noctilucent clouds seen for the first time?
Such clouds have been seen for the very first time back in 1885 after the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa erupted, says Weather.com.
After the eruption, the volcano hurled plumes of volcanic ash miles into the Earth’s atmosphere, Gary Thomas, a professor at the University of Colorado, said in a statement for space agency NASA.
📣 Very cool phenomena alert! 📣
A weather spotter caught these rare noctilucent clouds from Cold Springs, NV this evening. These clouds occur at a height of 50 mi above the earth. You can learn more about them here: https://t.co/qpPAJTuctc #NVwx
Photo Credit: Catherine Beach pic.twitter.com/BDDKzDo2Ur
— NWS Reno (@NWSReno) June 10, 2019
Cirrus clouds vs. noctilucent clouds
Even if these clouds may look like cirrus clouds, “noctilucent clouds form differently than the more common, icy, whispy clouds. For example, noctilucent clouds develop in a different section of the atmosphere than cirrus, cumulus and even thunderstorm (cumulonimbus) clouds,” according to the website mentioned above.
The website continues and highlights more differences: “Additionally, cirrus clouds are often seen during the day, while noctilucent clouds develop only in the summer and are best viewed during twilight, after the sun has dropped below the horizon in the evening or before it rises above the horizon in the morning.”
Noctilucent clouds are forming in the mesosphere at about 50 miles above the surface of Earth.
The season for viewing such clouds in the Northern Hemisphere begins in early June and lasts through late April. The best time to check these out is at dusk and dawn.
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