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The NLC appear – at last!

Finally, FINALLY a good display of NLC – “noctilucent clouds” – was visible from my part of the world (Cumbria, UK… big clue in the name of the blog, up there at the top..!) last night. And it was an absolute beauty.

Regular readers will know that I have been getting rather frustrated (polite way of saying SERIOUSLY ******* HACKED OFF!!!!) with this year’s NLC season. There have been a couple of displays, but these occurred when the weather here in Kendal was uncooperative, and the only clouds I saw were the low, black grey water droplet kind. On Wednesday night I went up to the castle again, lured up there again by a clear late evening sky, but by the time I headed home at 2am I hadn’t seen even a wisp of NLC. Very annoying.

Last night, I was so disheartened by recent wild goose/NLC chases I had decided to not even think about going out NLC-hunting unless and until someone else, somewhere, reported a positive sighting online, on Twitter or Facebook, and settled down to watch the England v Uruguay World Cup match resolving to stick to that decision. But when we lost the match I was so disappointed that I knew I needed to get out into the night, even if I saw nothing, so at 11.30 I packed up my gear and headed out into the almost-midnight Summer twilight. Crossing the road I glanced left, looking north as I always do – and stopped in my tracks. There were patches of light blue-grey up there which looked… well, they just looked wrong. Or rather, right. When you’ve been an NLC hunter as long as I have you start to get a “feel” for the kind of evening which hosts a display, and as I headed across the street to the park last night my NLC spidey sense was definitely tingling, and when I reached the park and looked north again and saw what I knew for a FACT were large areas of NLC, my spirits lifted. Finally, FINALLY, a good display on a clear night!

I rang Stella as I all but jogged up the hill to the castle, letting her know a display was brewing so she could join me later, all the while casting excited but fearful glances at the northern sky, which was looking decidedly curdled by now. By the time I reached the castle, there was no doubt that Something Big was brewing, so I put the word out on Twitter and Facebook, alerting other observers, and then settled down to organising my own observing session.

As I set up my camera and tripod, I could see signs of NLC stretching across the whole of the northern sky, from the NW to the NE, and fired off some test shots as soon as I could… Here’s what the display looked like around ten to midnight…


And here’s what it looked like around half an hour later, with the sky a little darker…


By the time Stella joined me I had already taken several dozen photos, but I love this one of her looking up at the display as it developed…


It was annoying – but inevitable – that the ONLY CLOUD IN THE WHOLE SKY was smack bang in the middle of the NLC display, covering it…


Enhance that and you can see the full extent of the display…

pano2x sm

Around 1am it looked like the display was fading, falling back towards the northern horizon…


…but I’ve been observing NLC a long time, and I know that such a fading isn’t necessarily The End. It might mark the end of Part 1 of the display, the late night/midnight part, but there’s always a chance that the display will rear up again and roar again before dawn, so at this point I just put a cover over my camera – a woolly hat if you must know! – to prevent dew, and went fir a sit down, catching up on how my fellow NLC watchers were doing by checking out Twitter and Facebook. It was clear from their breathless posts and gorgeous images that the display I was watching was being seen and enjoyed all across the UK, and watchers in Scotland were seeing a particularly good show. This was the first big “Social Media” display I’ve seen, and it was fascinating to follow the reports as they came in, as seasoned observers quietly and calmly went about recording and photographing it, and newbies and First Timers jumped about online like puppies, giddy with the excitement of it all.

And, as I had hoped – and as others online had predicted – around 2am the display began to come to life again, as a patch of NLC began to brighten and grow low in the NNW…


Sensing the display’s second act was about to begin I grabbed my gear and headed into the ruins of the castle itself, intent on taking some pictures with those ruins silhouetted against the display. And soon I was taking them, as the display grew larger and brighter again, filling the northern sky with fresh wirls, curls and streamers of noctilucent cloud…


Soon the display was back in full swing, so I just took picture after picture after picture, swapping position and lenses every few minutes, getting as many pictures as possible, realising that with Cumbrian weather being what it is, this might be the first and last great display of the season. Here are the best pics I took, in no particular order, ok?









castle befpre dawn

By 3am the sky was starting to brighten with the approach of dawn, but the display was still visible…

dawn approaches b

Eventually I started to lose the display, and here are the last images I took…

last look

Back home again at around 03.30 I knew I should go straight to bed, but I was so desperate to see how my photos had turned out that it was almost half past four before my head hit the pillow!

So… finally, FINALLY a display worthy of the name. It took a while to happen, but last night was brilliant, well worth the wait. The forecast is for a clear sky again tonight, so fingers crossed for Round 2..!

2 Responses

  1. […] Take a look at Stuart’s photos of the event here: The NLC appear – at last! […]

  2. […] auf 51.5° Nord in der Nacht 16./17. Juni – auch in der Nacht 19./20. Juni gab es welche in England [NACHTRAG: und Nordirland] und am 21./22. Juni in Deutschland und […]

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