Russian space agency Roscosmos published spectacular photos of Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) and noctilucent clouds or polar mesospheric clouds (PMCs) above our beautiful planet Earth. This is something we’ve never seen before. Forming about 45-55 miles (75-90 km) above polar regions in summer, noctilucent clouds are Earth’s uppermost clouds and only visible around twilight. PMCs are composed of ice crystals that glow bright blue or white when reflecting sunlight. The photos are taken by the Russian cosmonaut Ivan Vagner.

Noctilucent clouds need a combination of three factors: sufficient water steam, very low temperatures, and the presence of the smallest dust particles that condensed water, turning into ice crystals. Sunlight gives the clouds their characteristic electric blue and white color.

Comet NEOWISE and Noctilucent Clouds
Comet NEOWISE and Noctilucent Clouds. Photo by Cosmoaut Ivan Vagner (Roscosmos)
M. Özgür Nevres

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