Catching a glimpse of the Mesosphere

by Michiel Baatsen

In the midst of summer when the sun does not set at high latitudes one can sometimes catch a glimpse of the mesosphere shortly after sunset or before sunrise. These thin veils, known as noctilucent clouds, are the highest known cloud-like structures forming at about 80km above the surface. At this height, they are still lit by the sun and can be seen from lower latitudes many hundreds of kilometers away. They come to life in time lapse photography and provide us a way to watch the intricate flows and wave patterns taking shape in the mesosphere. In this particular case, there is also a band of low (tropospheric) clouds clearly moving in the opposite direction and contrasting nicely with the gradually evolving structures above.