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Rare ‘night-shining’ clouds give Dorset church ‘ghostly glow’

A photographer captured a stunning summer phenomenon in the early morning hours that gave a 12th century church a ghostly glow.

Ollie Taylor, an astrophotographer, snapped ‘night-shining’ clouds that lit up the night sky in southwest England with spectacular streaks of blue and silver.

Formally known as noctilucent clouds (NLCs), they form in the mesosphere, which is at altitudes of around 50 miles – making them the highest in Earth’s atmosphere.

The clouds consist of ice crystals that become visible during twilight when the sun is shining from blow the horizon.

On June 22, Taylor set out on a mission to capture the night-shining clouds in Dorset, which sits on the south coast of England.

He arrived at the Knowlton Church in the middle of a Neolithic monument and started snapping the scene starting at 2am to 2:50am.

‘It was an excellent night of shooting, arriving at location in the evening already greeted by noctilucent clouds better than I had previously seen in the south of England,’ said Ollie.

‘The electric blue complemented the misty landscape and eerie structure.’

The clouds typically form in late spring and summer when the lower atmosphere becomes warmer.

Atmospheric circulation pushes air upwards, which then expands and cools.

Water vapor becomes trapped in the clouds, freezes into ice crystals and forms meteoric dust.

The clouds appear with electric blue and sliver streaks and are typically spotted at latitudes of 45 and 80 degrees in the northern and southern hemispheres, Newsweek reports.

And the stunning display can even be seen from space, as astronauts aboard the International Space Station have shared pictures of the phenomenon. 

Taylor tracked the clouds using a combination of different sources, including space weather updates, webcam observations and a Facebook group, according to the European Space Agency.

The clouds are typically spotted when the sun is just below the horizon, about 90 minutes to about two hours after sunset or before sunrise.

At such times, when the sun is below the ground horizon but visible from the high altitude of NLCs, sunlight lights them up and causes the stunning glow in the night sky.

Noctilucent clouds were first described in the mid-19th century after the eruption of Krakatau.

Volcanic ash spread through the atmosphere, making for vivid sunsets around the world and provoking the first known observations of NLCs.

At first people thought they were a side-effect of the volcano, but long after Krakatau’s ash settled, the wispy, glowing clouds remained.

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