Noctilucent Cloud

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noctilucent cloud

[¦näk·tə¦lü·sənt ′klau̇d]
A cloud of unknown composition which occurs at great heights and high altitudes; photometric measurements have located such clouds between 45 and 54 miles (75 and 90 kilometers); they resemble thin cirrus, but usually with a bluish or silverish color, although sometimes orange to red, standing out against a dark night sky.

Noctilucent Cloud


a type of luminous, transparent cloud that sometimes appears in the upper part of the mesosphere at altitudes of 70–90 km. The structure of noctilucent clouds is somewhat similar to that of light cirrus clouds. Noctilucent clouds consist of aggregations of particles 10-4–10-5 cm in size that scatter sunlight. Such particles may consist of ice crystals formed upon condensation of water vapor that has been borne upward to high altitudes, or they may be volcanic or cosmic (meteoric) dust. It is possible that ice crystals form only around dust particles.

Noctilucent clouds were first investigated by V. K. Tseraskii in 1885. They are observed in the northern hemisphere between the latitudes of 45° and 70° and in the southern hemisphere between the latitudes of 40° and 65°. They occur only during the warm part of the year—from May through August in the northern hemisphere, with a maximum number of occurrences in July. The annual number of recorded occurrences observed from a given point may be as high as 20 to 30. Noctilucent clouds exist for periods of several minutes to several hours. In appearance they assume four basic configurations: gauze, bands, combs, and whirls. For observations from the ground, the best visibility is during nautical twilight, when the sun is 6°-12° below the horizon. Noctilucent clouds can also be observed during daylight if the observation equipment is raised aloft to high altitudes. Observations of noctilucent clouds are used to obtain data on the winds prevailing at the altitude of formation.


Bronshten, V. A., and N. I. Grishin. Serebristye oblaka. Moscow, 1970.


References in periodicals archive ?
Around the summer solstice is usually the best time for observing noctilucent clouds but they can often be seen all through the summer months.
The noctilucent clouds remain lit by the sun because of their great height, whereas weather clouds remain in silhouette against the twilit summer evening sky.
Dr Gary Burns from the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart, and colleagues, John French, Karen French and Pene Greet, are investigating a possible link between noctilucent clouds and climate change.
Noctilucent clouds develop in the mesosphere at an altitude of 85 kilometers.
Every year, high in Earth's atmosphere, wispy tendrils of noctilucent, or night-shining, clouds appear above the South Pole.
June usually bring us the start of several displays of high-altitude noctilucent clouds, which are usually seen about an hour or so after sunset and before sunrise.
Noctilucent clouds in Earth's high-latitude upper mesosphere form at temperatures below 150 K (Rapp and Thomas 2006) and it has been suggested that they are composed of cubic ice (Murray and Plane 2003a,b, 2005; Murray and Jensen 2010).
the director of northumberland's kielder observatory has said that the stunning noctilucent clouds are likely to be visible in clear skies for the rest of july.
Jay Brausch is a dedicated amateur observer of the aurora borealis and noctilucent clouds residing at Glen Ullin, North Dakota, USA, 46[degrees]48'N, 101[degrees]46'W.
Radar has been used to examine icy dust that hovers some 90 km above the Earth and can grow to become the ice particles inside noctilucent clouds, according to Scott Bailey of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
The thin wispy glowing clouds, known as 'night shining', or noctilucent clouds (NLCs), have been seen from Earth and photographed by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
He rose to 41st place on the sires' list there in 2001, but his 35 winners of 49 races included nothing of Graded calibre; perhaps the best of his runners last year was Noctilucent, who won at Listed level in France and is Simeon's older sister.