Noctilucent Clouds make a return!

Noctilucent clouds, those extreme-high altitude clouds that form during the summer months (and typically at higher latitudes), are back. July 1st afforded many within the Pacific Northwest a stunning array of the rare, wispy clouds about a half hour after sunset.

In Shelton, the scene played itself in a wonderful display over Washington's Hood Canal, where photographer Steve Rosenow of Fire Mountain Photography captured them on his digital camera. "While leaving the house to go shoot some pool with a couple friends in Olympia, I noticed the sky was a bit peculiar, and it didn't take me long to figure out that these were indeed Noctilucent clouds! So, I quickly grabbed my Nikon digital camera and drove to a nearby field and set up shop."

Noctilucent clouds are often known for making their presence felt over a couple days, first at sunset and then at sunrise the following morning. Rosenow knew that from being an avid websurfer of the Web site Spaceweather.com, and stayed up all night. At 3:30 he drove up to a pulloff on Highway 101 just south of Washington's Potlatch State Park. There, he found a breathtaking display of Noctilucent clouds stretching almost completely across the northern horizon. With the shutter of his camera working away, he created these stunning images of this awesome sight.

Noctilucent clouds have a relatively unknown origin. It's said that they form at the outer edge of Earth's atmosphere in a region known as the mesosphere, at an altitude of approximately between 47 and 53 miles. Noctilucent clouds are not fully understood and are a recently discovered meteorological phenomenon; there is no evidence that they were observed before 1885.

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