Noctilucent clouds
© Andy Stables/spaceweathergallery.com
Noctilucent clouds (NLCs) have been spotted over Poland, Czech Republic, Canada, and Scotland, among other countries, on May 25 and 26, marking an early start to the northern hemisphere's 2021 NLC season. The clouds are rapidly intensifying. In only four days since the clouds were first seen, their coverage of the Arctic has multiplied 10 times.

On May 26, 2021, photographer Andy Stables captured NLCs over Milovaig in the Isle of Skye, Scotland. "The NLCs got stronger and this was taken at 00:47 UTC (01:47 LT)," Stables said.

The electric-blue rippers "were clearly visible to the unaided eye," he added. "This is the earliest I have ever seen them here in Scotland."

Dr. Tony Phillips of spaceweather.com described the phenomenon as unusual, noting that the NLCs are already forming even though it is only May. Other witnesses are able to see the clouds from the ground.

"NLCs are Earth's highest clouds," said Dr. Phillips. "Seeded by meteoroids, they float at the edge of space about 83 km (52 miles) above the ground."
NLCs in Poland
© Tomasz Adam
Early NLCs captured in Krakow, Poland, on May 25.

The clouds form when summertime wisps of water vapor rise up to the mesosphere, letting water crystallize around meteor smoke.

According to NASA, specks of meteor smoke act as gathering spots where water molecules can assemble themselves into ice crystals in a process called nucleation.
NLCs in Quebec, Canada
© Jocelyn Blanchette
Auroras and NLCs shot in Fermont, Quebec, Canada, on May 26.
"Nucleation happens all the time in the lower atmosphere. In ordinary clouds, airborne specks of dust and even living microbes can serve as nucleation sites," NASA explained.

"Tiny ice crystals, drops of water, and snowflakes grow around these particles, falling to Earth if and when they become heavy enough."


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About The Author

Julie Celestial: I'm fascinated with skies, stars, and every speck of dust in the universe. You can contact me at julie [ at ] watchers.news.