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"Night Shining" Clouds Seen From Space

January 24, 2013
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Courtesy of NASA

Luminous Beauty

Astronauts managed to capture these breathtaking images from orbit.

Polar mesospheric clouds—also known as noctilucent or "night shining" clouds—form between 76 to 85 kilometers (47 to 53 miles) above the Earth’s surface, near the boundary of the mesosphere and thermosphere, a region known as the mesopause. At these altitudes, water vapor can freeze into clouds of ice crystals. When the Sun is below the horizon and the ground is in darkness, these high clouds may still be illuminated, lending them their ethereal, "night shining" qualities.

To see more about unique phenomenon, visit the NASA Earth Observatory website.


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