Noctilucent clouds are so rare they are only visible after the sun has set

Noctilucent clouds above Teignmouth Credit: Teign Weather on Twitter

During the summer months, when we enjoy the long evenings an shorter nights, a rare siting is often visible in the night's sky when the sun has disappeared below the horizon.

Almost all of our weather happens in the lowest part of the atmosphere, the troposphere, but there are another three layers above that before you reach space. That means that the clouds we see must all be in the same part of the atmosphere too right? Well, one rare type forms well above the troposphere and the stratosphere, at around 200,000 feet in the mesosphere.

Noctilucent Clouds above Dorset Credit: Jack Lodge

It's called noctilucent cloud and like cirrus it's made of ice, but because it's so high up it's almost impossible to see during the daytime because the sun is so bright and there is often too much other weather in the way.

However, on clear nights during the summer months, the sunlight left over once the sun has fallen below the horizon can light up these super high clouds and create a very mysterious look in the sky. This is typically an hour or so after sunset and before sunrise.

Noctilucent clouds over the Quantock hills Credit: Will Gater

Take a look next time the nights are clear and at their shortest and see if you can spot this peculiar glow way off in the distance.

Noctilucent clouds over Morecambe Bay, taken from Blackpool 18th June Credit: Jonathan Moore, Blackpool
Noctilucent Clouds behind Blackpool Credit: Stephen Cheatley