Belfast Telegraph

Rare cloud formations out of this world

By Linda Stewart

Rare noctilucent cloud displays filled Northern Ireland's night skies in the run-up to the summer solstice.

Skywatcher Martin McKenna took these "alien-looking" images of the mysterious noctilucent (night-shining) clouds lighting up an isolated farmhouse near his home in Maghera and says they are among the brightest he's ever seen.

Noctilucent clouds are thought to be caused by sunlight reflecting off space dust that has become encased in ice crystals high in our atmosphere.

"They're visible when the sun is between six and 16 degrees below the horizon after sunset, but nobody really understands what they are about," Martin said.

"Structures visible were sharp bands, herringbone – often described as like sand ripples on a beach at low tide – and large-scale whirls."

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