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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Dance of the Noctilucent Clouds

By Phil Plait

I know I just posted a time-lapse animation of aurorae, and the time lapse below also has aurorae in it, but—and this is a big but—it has something I’ve only seen very rarely: Animation showing the movement of eerie and beautiful noctilucent clouds!

The noctilucent clouds are in the first 40 seconds of the video. These are very high clouds, formed from extremely fine grain ice crystals about 75–80 kilometers in altitude. They can only be seen just after sunset or before sunrise, when the Sun is below the horizon but still able to illuminate the clouds. They’re not terribly well understood, but some studies indicate they appear to be more common recently, possibly inked with global warming (see Related Posts, below).

The rest of the video is quite lovely too, featuring aurorae, thunderstorms, and just the always-lovely movement of stars overhead. I have to laugh: I get exposed to more music that I’d never have otherwise heard watching these kinds of videos. I like the accompanying soundtrack to this video, and in fact it’s cool how the music stutters a bit, and the photographer, Tadas Janusonis, synched that up with the lightning bolts. I like it when the music matches the cadence of the video.

Related Posts:

Noctilucent clouds:

Videos by Tadas Janusonis:

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