Image Credit & Copyright: Mike Bartils.
Here’s an incredible image of the rare noctilucent clouds from Mike Bartils that was submitted to Spaceweather.com.
As many of you space nuts already know, noctilucent clouds are a high northern & southern latitude summer treat. Usually taking place just after sunset or before sunrise at latitudes of above 45-70 degrees north and south of the equator and for a fairly brief window from May through August for the northern hemisphere and November through February for the southern hemisphere. As this is a primarily summer event, regions near the poles rarely get dark enough to view them.
Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds on Earth (they reside in the mesosphere) and they’re formed by ice crystals and dust extremely high in the atmosphere. As the Sun sets and dips roughly 5 to 15 degrees below the horizon, sunlight is reflected off of them in much the same way the ISS and Iridium Flares are illuminated.
Ok, so now you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about because you already know or have just read that this phenomenon occurs high in the northern hemisphere and low in the southern hemisphere……The title of this post does say Florida doesn’t it.
Well, truth be told, what Mr. Bartils captured over his Orlando skies is an even more rare form of NLC’s; these came courtesy of a SpaceX, Falcon 9 rocket launch that had taken place about an hour and a half before this sighting. The water vapor in the exhaust of the rocket had crystallized high in the atmosphere giving astute Floridians a spectacular show.
Perhaps I haven’t given this phenomenon much though but I have seen some pretty spectacular post-launch rocket plume images, especially from the space shuttle but I never remember seeing images of NLC’s after. If anyone has seen displays like this in the past following launches I’d love to hear the story. If not now that we do know they happen, keep your eyes peeled for a post-launch, pre-sunrise show!
Spaceweather page with this image: http://spaceweathergallery.com/indiv_upload.php?upload_id=100104