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Noctilucent clouds in February?

On February 20 and 24, 2013, unusual clouds which looked like NLC (noctilucent clouds) were observed by the pilots Terry J. Parker above Birmingham, UK, Nikolay N. Nikolaev and Egor C. above Moscow, Russia (picture at top).

In the AKM forum (AKM = Arbeitskreis Meteore/ Meteor Workshop) there were discussions on what could have been the reason for this unusual phenomenon.

  • Polar Stratospheric Clouds can be excluded as a reason because the stratosphere was too warm at the time the observations were made (12).
  • MAARSY (Middle Atmosphere Alomar Radar System) in Andenes, Norway, recorded strong echoes in the mesosphere. Weak echoes have also been recorded at Kühlungsborn, Germany. Mesospheric winter echoes are common, but up to now there are no special observations recorded which were connected to these echoes.
  • There was a full moon on February 25, so high cirrus clouds illuminated by the moon cannot be excluded as a reason.
  • The most probable explanation for the phenomenon is, however, that the clouds had been caused by the meteor which hit near Cheljabinsk, Russia, on February 15. A recent study by Kathryn Hansen shows that this cloud of smoke travelled around earth in an altitude of about 40 kilometres. This fits with altitude measurements made in Wales, which showed that the unusual clouds had formed at altitudes between 35 and 38 kilometres.

Another article to this Topic:  “Noctilucent clouds in october ?”


Noctilucent clouds in october ?

Foto: Rüdiger Manig, Neuhaus, Germany

In the evening of October, 21, 2011 between 18.45 and 19.15 CEST in Czech Republic, Austria and Germany spreads of clouds were observed from the northwestern to southwestern horizon at a maximal altitude of 15-20°, which reminded very strongly to noctilucent clouds (NLC). But NLC is not ineligible as explanation for this season of course and also the cloud structure’s altitude calculated from the sun elevation (-8° to -11°) is ca. 60-70 km is too low for NLC.

All known observations with observed direction of clouds (if noted).
Black Points: Observations without photos
Red points: Observations with photos (meteoros-forum)
Violet points: Animations (123)

The most probable cause could be the exhaust gases of the Soyuz rocket, which was launched in Kourou, French Guayana at 12.30 o’clock, in order to bring the first satellites for the European navigation system Galileo into the earth orbit. During the overflight above Europe a large extent of water, carbon dioxide and nitrogen containing exhaust gases were ejected with a speed of approximately 4km/s and fell downwards unimpeded. At a height of approx. 70km the water vapour condensed into clouds, which were illuminated –  like the NLC – also by the sun, while normal clouds lay long in the shade.

A further possibility of explanation could be a meteor trail. There is one not too much detailed observation, which could refer to a fireball: Report in German and with automatically Bablfish-Translator. But this possible fireball was in this moment, in which would observe the NLC-shaped clouds (18:45 CEST). And as experience teaches a meteor trail needs several hours to develop.

Authors: Landy-Gyebnár Mónika, Claudia Hinz, Wolfgang Hamburg