Noctilucent Clouds - Sun Voyager, Reykjavík, Iceland (August 7, 2011)
Photo by Örvar Atli Þorgeirsson
The Aurora forecast on the 6th of August was predicting extreme Aurora activity. Even though it was very early August and the night would not get fully dark I went out as the Aurora can be seen in deep twilight conditions. I saw the Aurora for a 1-2 minutes that night. I did not get a good picture of it though. Instead we witnessed this even rarer phenomenon called noctilucent clouds.
These are clouds that seem to glow in the night. They are the worlds highest clouds located in the mesosphere at altitudes of around 76 to 85 kilometers. They are very thin and only visible in deep dusk when the sun lights them from underneath and where first witnessed and recorded in 1885. Noctilucent clouds can be seen by observers at a latitude of 50 to 65 degrees north or south and in summer when the mesosphere is at its coldest (-120°C).
These clouds where extremely beautiful to look at and reminded me of the Aurora but where much more stationary and had this beautiful blue color. Some people where actually confusing these clouds with the Aurora as they were told about extreme Aurora activity that night. They where equally interesting to see and photograph as the Aurora.
The sculpture in the foreground is called the Sun Voyager. It is one of Reykjavíks most iconic sculptures and represents a viking boat sailing into the sunset as can be seen on late summer nights. It is a very popular subject amongst photographers and some call it a cliché. Nevertheless it is beautiful and interesting to photograph.