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Old and New…

No sign of any NLC last night (no? REALLY!?!?!?!?!?) but did see a pair of lovely ISS passes, including one which I managed to capture on film as it flew over a certain famous Kendal landmark…

Click to enlarge. Time exposure (8s) so the ISS recorded as a trail.

Quite pleased with that! 🙂

Dear Noctilucent Clouds…

Alright, enough is enough. Time to drag your sorry behinds out of bed, give yourselves a really, really good shake, and start shining for us UK observers. We know you’re up there because our friends in Norway, Austria and Germany have seen you and taken gorgeous pictures of you that they’ve put on t’internet for us to all drool over. Yet you insist on hiding yourselves away from UK observers, even on lovely clear nights.

Why? What have we done to upset you? Is it our football team’s fault? Is it Fabio’s fault? Is it because millions of us insist on still watching “Big Brother”? Is it because some of us still believe that Katy Price is a “celebrity” worthy of having her every move followed and photographed? Or is it something else?

Whatever it is, however we’ve offended you, we’re sorry, ok? Forgive us. Just tell us how to make it up to you, and we will, if it will mean we can see once again your beautiful billows, stunning streamers and wistful whirls and whorls of electric blue light shining over our northern horizons.

We’re sorry, truly. 😦

Come back to us!

Another ho-hum NLC display…

Another night, another “Is that IT?!?” display of NLC…

NLC, Kendal, June 25-26 2010 from Kendal Castle

Grrrrrrr…..!!

VERY frustrating night last night – hints of a lovely display of NLC going on behind a veil of murk and haze which soon turned into an impenetrable wall of cloud… got some nice pics tho, even if the naked eye view was absolutely nothing like this…

More at:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=182489&id=543617930&l=a523e1f360

Another night, another NLC display…

A beautiful clear night here last night, so come 01.00 off I trotted up to Kendal Castle again to look out for noctilucent clouds. And there was another display, but it was only a modest, subtle one, little more than a few thin bands and streamers parallel to the horizon in the NW sky. Still, better than nothing, and worth the trip up to the castle to get some nice photos. But there HAS to be a big display soon, surely..?

A tale of two “displays”…

Last night I watched two “displays” of very different yet strangely similar types.

First, I went along to the Brewery Arts Centre and, with a good couple of hundred other people, watched England play Algeria in the World Cup. It was an absolute disgrace, a shambling, shambolic, spiritless display of football from a team of over-paid and over-hyped celebrities that left everyone in the BAC either screaming at the screens with anger or silently holding their heads in their hands in despair…

Then, several hours later, I trekked up the big hill to Kendal Castle in the hope of seeing another display – this time a display of noctilucent clouds, or NLC. There was one, but, like the England game, it wasn’t the beautiful, memorable display I’d been hoping for. It was alright… kind of… there were some streamers and trails, but nothing special, nothing to Tweet about as I stood by the castle, listening to vuvuzelas (or, more likely kazoos that their users were pretending, oh so wittily and hilariously, were the ghastly South African ‘instruments’) rasping in the town below. I took some pictures, but really it was just a background display, a disappointment to round off an already crushingly-disappointing evening.

A clear sky is forecast for tonight, so fingers crossed for something better after midnight tonight…! 🙂

More NLC…

If UK NLC-observers were at all worried that 2010 was going to be a lean year for displays of their favourite night-time glowing clouds, those worries have been dispelled. Last night/this morning there was another lovely display of NLC visible across much of the UK, and I saw it really well from here in Kendal, thanks to my determination to get up at godawful early times as often as I have to in order to see the displays, and a timely alert text from Phil Stobart, EAS Founder, just as my alarm clock went off at 01.30…!

Out into the post-midnight darkness and I glanced to the north – yep, there were NLC in the sky again. Not exceptionally bright, and not exceptionally detailed, but well worth a closer look and a bit of camera-clicking, so quickly off I trotted up to Kendal Castle, set up my camera and tripod, and began what turmed out to be a couple of hours of very, very enjoyable NLC-watching. Here are some of the images I took…

After taking those shots I decided it was time to fulfill a wish, an ambition, I’ve had ever since moving to Kendal half a dozen years ago. The very first time I walked up the hill to the castle I fell in love with it, with its crumbling towers, its ruined battlements and its silent, epic history… and I also saw that it would provide me with a quite fantastic foreground in the event ofa  big NLC display. For various reasons – work, weather, lack of NLCs – I had never managed to take those photos… but this morning I knew everything was right, so I walked up to the castle ruins, entered it, and set up my camera at the far, southern end of its interior ‘garden’… pointed the camera to the north, where the NLC were shining far behind the castle, and took these…

I’ve been waiting sooooooooooooo long to take those photos, and they turned out way better than I dared hope they would – and that was with a quite faint display! Just imagine how stunning the ecene will be when a really bright display, with billows, streamers and waves, kicks off!

Will that be tonight? Check back here tomorrow to find out… 🙂

NLC? Definitely!

There was a very nice display of NLC visible from Kendal early this morning, which was well worth staying up for. I might suffer for it later, by teatime I might have bags under my eyes big enough to carry footballs in, but hey, that’s the charge the universe makes sometimes for seeing things like this, so fair enough… 🙂

I headed up to the castle at 11pm again last night – far too early, as it turned out – and my initial elation at finding myself under a beautifully clear sky was dampened somewhat when I found I’d forgotten to put my digital radio in my rucksack, meaning that instead of watching out for NLC to a guaranteed-to-keep-me-awake soundtrack of Talk Talk, Human League and Thompson Twins, courtesy of “Absolute 80s”, I’d be on my own, in the dark, with nothing to listen to, until I headed back home… 😦 But at least I hadn’t forgotten my camera or binocs, and within a few minutes of arriving at the castle I was all set up and ready for an NLC storm!!!

Hmmm. Not quite.

It was still very light at 11pm – I definitely went up there too early – but as what passes for darkness in June gradually fell, Venus was visible low in the west, dropping down towards Kendal’s streetlights… (please click on images for larger versions)

By 00.30 there was still no sign of any NLC, and I was beginning to wonder if the night was going to be a bust. By this time some big, dirty banks of cloud had appeared too, wafting in from the north without any real warning, and my dirtiest dirty looks and most annoyed “grrr!”ing totally failed to move them until around 01.00, when the clouds fled, leaving behind a clear sky again, and this

Yep, an NLC display was definitely brewing! 🙂 So I just stood up there on Kendal Castle hill and watched the show… Here are some of the pics I took, and it’s worth noting that the display wasn’t actually that impressive to the naked eye – I’ve seen a lot better – but the camera’s long exposure pictures picked up a lot of subtle detail…

A nice bonus was seeing Jupiter rising at around 02.00…

I eventually headed back down the hill at around 02.45, when the display seemed to be fading away. Crawled into bed around 03.00, a bit shattered but very happy to have seen my first decent display of the year. Much better to come over the next few weeks, I’m sure – maybe tonight..?

NLC! Finally! (I think…)

I think I finally caught a glimpse of NLC from here in Kendal at ridiculous o’clock this morning…

I went up to Kendal Castle at 11pm, when it was actually drizzling (that’s dedication for you!) because I could see gaps in the cloud cover drifting slowly to the north and guessed it was worth a go. Eventually the drizzle stopped, and a gap appeared in the north… but of course there remained a great dirty band of squid ink-black cloud draped across the northern sky, which drifted from east to west sooooo slowly, never allowing me a look at anything lower than fifteen degrees or so, i.e obliterating the exact area of the sky where NLC would be appearing, if there were any to see…

Some excitement at around 00.30 when I thought I maybe possibly perhaps saw ‘something’ in a gap, what looked like the end of a streamer, but couldn’t be sure. But as 01.00 approached, with no definite NLC seen and with work early this morning I decided to head back down the hill… I got to the park almost opposite my flat, and decided to take that deadly One Last Look Just In Case glance at the sky… and saw this…

I know, I know, it doesn’t look much on the pic – I had to grab it quickly before cloud piled back in, and could only see the clouds between a gap in streetlights, as you can see – but in binocs there was definite structure visible, so I’m 80% sure these were NLC and not high cirrus or vapour trails, especially as observers in Anglesey were seeing a fine display at around the same time. I hope those are NLC, I’ll be gutted if they aren’t after all that…

Phew…!  🙂

…and STILL no sign of NLC…

For the first time in what, maybe a week, the sky above Kendal cleared of cloud last night, so just after 11pm up I trotted to Kendal Castle, camera, binocs and digital radio in hand (well, over my back and in my pocket) to scan the northern horizon and hopefully spot my first display of noctilucent clouds of 2010…

Up at the castle it was beautifully peaceful. Not another soul was around, and far below me Kendal itself was surprisingly and unusually quiet; not much traffic sound, just a single car alarm wailing briefly, and, for a short while, the shrill mating calls of a group of cider-fuelled chavs gathered in a nearby park, the sounds of their shiny shellsuits rustling and their neck chains clinking together fading away as they slunk away into the deepening darkness…

…and over to the NW, Venus, much fainter than it was just a month ago, was dropping down towards the horizon…

Soon the planet was almost touching the horizon…

…and then it was gone, surrendering the sky to a beautiful, breathtaking, stunning display of NLC!

I hoped. But no, nothing. Not a wisp, not a curl, not a tendril of NLC was there to be seen. A couple of airplane vapour trails appeared, briefly shining against the purple-blue sky, but they were pale and mocking imitations of the real thing, and although I remained at the Castle for almost two hours, patiently scanning the horizon again and again, again and again, no NLC appeared, and despite repeated attempts I didn’t pin down the location of Comet McNaught either (I thought I glimpsed it a couple of times in my binocs, but impossible to be sure), so when the digital radio station “Absolute 80’s” played U2’s song “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” at 1am I decided the Universe was sending me a message, telling me to get myself off to bed because it wasn’t going to oblige me with a display that night that’s just what I decided to do.

So, a clear night and no NLC. Not fair, not fair At All! But a lovely night of Venus-watching, and hey, a couple of very peaceful hours of standing by the ruins of an ancient castle, with Venus glowing through the haze, Mars and Saturn off to my left, and bats flitting, sweeping and swooping around me… can’t complain, eh? 🙂