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Waving a white flag at the sky…

Okay, that’s it – I give in. Cumbrian weather: you’ve won, you’ve beaten me. Every clear night since the start of June I’ve either stayed up until ridiculous o’clock, or set my alarm to wake me up at ridiculous o’clock, and then trekked up the high hill to Kendal castle, carrying a rucksack full of cameras and binoculars etc, in the hope of seeing noctilucent clouds, and you completely and absolutely ruined the 2010 season for me. Time after time I went up there, lured by a big area of clear sky to the north, and I swear that with every step I took that patch of sky grew smaller and smaller until, by the time I reached the castle, only cloud remained. That was bad enough, but to then wake up the next morning and read reports online of beautiful, stunning, glorious displays seen from across the rest of the UK, or across Europe, well, that was just pouring salt into the wound, adding vinegar and stirring the whole lot with a big, sharp stick.

I managed to grab a few photos of some modest, couldn’t-really-be-bothered displays, which I’m quite pleased with, but really, the season has been a bile-bitter disappointment, and to be honest I’ll be glad to see the back of it. I love astronomy, I really do, and I’m 10000 dedicated to it – which is why I managed to get the pictures I did – but this summer’s weather has really done my head in; night after gloomy night of tiny patches of clear sky in the midst of great thick saggy, fat blankets and quilts of sagging grey and black cloud, on the nights when it wasn’t actually hammering it down with rain…

Well, enough. No more speculative observing trips for me; I’m not going up to the castle now unless a) the sky is totally clear, and b) I either read on Twitter that a big display is in progress, or Phil Stobbart from EAS texts me to tell me there’s a display going on. So, Cumbrian weather, curse and damn you, you win – this time. This is me, waving my NLC 2010 season white flag.

My last trip up to the castle, last Friday night, was my final disappointment – the sky looked very clear as I started across the river and towards the castle, with a big area of clear sky calling to me from the north… but by the time I reached the top of the hill, that clear sky had been devoured by cloud, and my hopes of seeing a late-season display of NLC vanished. Yes, I swore, I actually swore at the sky.


Then turning my back on the northern sky I saw a truly beautiful scene…

An almost-Full Moon, hanging just above Kendal Castle, shining through thin cloud (latecomer cloud, obviously, rushing north to fill in the final last patch of clear sky, just in case any NLC dared to show…!)… and a beautiful “Moon Dog” shining on either side of it, AND an “arc” of light glowing above it. Beautiful, just beautiful. And well worth trekking up to Kendal Castle for.

But NLC? You’re on your own now* 🙂

( * unless, of course, a huge display rounds off the season, in which case please forget everything I said in this post. Thank you! 🙂  )


3 Responses

  1. Well written and although I don’t have to trek up anywhere, but I do drive up to Birkrigg Common for my observing sessions (15 minutes away), I do have to take Scopes, all my bags full of equipment when I go, Charge all the Batteries etc! Takes me an hour from packing all my gear to setting up at Birkrigg, and for what? July has been a total washout for us Cumbrian’s, It’s either been Raining or Cloudy or Both, Day & Night.
    Waving a white flag at the sky…”Yes White Flag Hoisted”
    Enjoyed your Post, well written & Very apt.

  2. white flag?? are you surrender bro?

  3. Hey Stu,

    Didn’t I read last year about an idea that NLC displays were sometimes triggered by shuttle and other rocket launches?

    I mean, obviously that can’t be the only provenance or there wouldn’t be an Icelandic word for them: perlan.

    Actually, now that I do slightly more research I can’t tell, are perlan clouds (nacreous clouds) the same as NLCs?


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