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Kendal’s NLC-Chasers succesfully track down their prey!

Here we go again, the annual hunt for noctilucent clouds – or NLC – has begun! And acoss the UK, in fact across the world, skywatchers are now getting jumpy and itchy and impatient and flustered every sunset, wondering what the coming night will bring – clear sky or clouds? NLC or no-show? It’s a very, very frustrating time of year…!

The first sighting of NLC during a new season is always special, and for the NLC-chasing members of the Eddington Astronomical Society that sighting came early (ridiculously early!!) on Wednesday morning…

The previous evening, three of EAS’s most dedicated NLC-chasers – myself, Carol and Phil – had arranged to meet up at Kendal Castle after midnight, hoping to see some NLC after a day of beautifully-clear skies, and reports from other countries of early displays of NLC. But by the time we got up there, the clear sky had gone – replaced by a Kendal-smothering blanket of murk, a low grey foggy foulness which obliterated every hint of starlight! No! Not fair!!!

BUT…

Phil and carol’s weather apps on their phones suggested that clearer skies might be found further north, up towards Shap, and Penrith, so, ever the optimists, we piled into Carol’s car and were soon heading north, out of the Auld Grey Town and up towards higher ground Penrith-way…

BUT…

The fog was evil, trly evil. It wasn’t restricted to Kendal, it was aropund and beyond the town, and as we headed north, at almost 2am, we drove through steadily thicker and thicker fog, fog so thick it almost hid the ‘cats eyes’ stretching down the centre of the road.

BUT…

Then suddenly we were out of the fog, above it, and could see stars! Finding a farm gateway to park up in we piled out of the car and began scanning the northern horizon, hoping that some NLC would apear. And after twenty minutes or so, they did…

Just very pale, almost-not-there pale in fact, with no obvious structure, but definitely NLC from the way they were shining in the powder blue dawn-approaching sky with the “normal” water droplet clouds dark pillows beneath them, hugging the horizon. Not knowing how long the display would last we all took photos. Even ON those pictures the NLC aren’t very obvious, but they’re there, and they could be seen, just, with the naked eye, so I thibnk it’s okay for Kendal’s NLC-Chasers officially declare the 2012 NLC Season OPEN! :-)

By 3.15 the NLC were fading from view, the sky brighetning behind them so much that their meagre light was obliterated, but as if to thank us for our perseverance and dedication we were treated to a beautifully bright pass of the ISS as we prepared to go home. Cameras were quickly swung around towards it, and more pics were taken as we all said a quiet, yawny “Thank you!” to the sky for not letting us down…

All in all it was a brilliant night – good company, and a quest completed. Now we’ve got our fingers crossed for another display tonight, because as I type this the sky beyond my window is clear and a cold, dark blue, so I’ll be up at the Castle before dawn again tomorrow morning.

Fingers crossed!

(ISS trail – Carol)

(NLC – Phil)

(NLC – me)

Kendal’s NLC-Chasers! – Carol

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