Operation noctilucent clouds


Noctilucent clouds alarm.

How lovely words and how much I anticipate them. Everyone will no guess that this sentence started a crazy hassle in Salonkylä that leads to a story...

...yesterday was a fun day and there was a refreshingly bright display of noctilucent clouds.

The End!

...haha, was it so easy to fool you? Perhaps you will tolerate my teen expression; it was really SUPER COOL! So let's begin! Noctilucent clouds (*) alarm came already before midnight. NLC's were so low in the horizon, that we were thinking with my husband that it might not be a good idea to drive to our original photo location in Pyhäranta. It was a good decision, because we could have missed the show. There was a car fire at the road to the photo site (we were watching real time emergency reports at site called "tilannehuone", we were wondering what that black smoke in horizon was about, and soon found the answer). Of course that road was blocked because of that situation. What a chaotic beginning to the trip!

Soon some fire trucks were driving along road number 8 to Uusikaupunki to deal with some building fire. (and again we were watching reports at tilannehuone). Forest fire warning was effective in the area, so I was a bit anxious, would the fires be contained? (and they were).

So we were dominating the village road like a boss! I had a very convincing beginning as I instantly fell to the ditch by the car as I came out of the car...so it was a very street credible start! I was Ok anyway, and after some stumbling I was again standing on the road with my camera. The NLC display was limited to a narrow area, so I changed my 15 mm wide angle lens to 24-105 mm general use lens.

Then I noticed a flash of light in the zenith. A fireball was falling down in a majestic way. I shouted simultaneously with my husband "wow, what a fireball".. in the end of it's flight it was broken down to a two pieces that faded away. Persisting trains were left behind of those two pieces. It was worth to see it!

But where were those silky nights of August, we were wondering, as it was a little bit chilly, only +8 degrees....?! We had warm clothes on, but we could felt the cold humidity in our bones! Eventually we were so much freezing, that we had to pack our equipment and head back home.

While we were driving back, I peeked at the rear mirror. What I saw, was so indescribable, that we had to park the car immediately at the village road and I jumped out from the car to shoot, as I had a little bit time to warm myself up in the car. My husband stayed in the car while still looking a bit blueish and chilly. At that moment the NLC's were getting brighter once more. A veil of mist was hanging on the nearby fields surrounding the whole scene. The combination of NLC's and the mist was surreal. Smell of ripening grains, sounds of grasshoppers combined with the picturesque view before my eyes made me feel humble and thankful for being able to experience this special moment.

This was amazing night despite the coldness. It was especially fantastic to see crescent Moon, earthshine and also bright, shining noctilucent clouds with beautiful, reddish upper edge. In the background, there was orange glow in the horizon with mist surrounding the fields.

It was not an easy job to photograph these NLC's. I really had to think about exposure times and apertures to be able to photograph the NLC's, crescent Moon and earthshine with one shoot as I'm not very good at combining exposures with image manipulation softwares. NLC's are not an easy target, especially in late summer when nights get darker. Then it is difficult to to get foreground exposed correctly (it tends to became too dark easily) and if exposure is too long, photos became too noisy. If I adjust aperture smaller, vignetting becomes easily a problem with my cheap lens, and it is not possible to fix it even with the god tier software called Lightroom. (Especially if you aren't mastering it already). If you are revving ISO -values, photos are too noisy even with max noise reduction masking. With long exposures, brightest areas of NLC's tend to became overexposed with out of control noise, an easy way to get early gray hairs for sure! Well, gray hairs would look nice there with some whites and brownish, so feel yourself welcome!

*Noctilucent clouds, or night shining clouds, are tenuous cloud-like phenomena in the upper atmosphere of Earth. When viewed from space, they are called Polar mesospheric clouds (PMCs), detectable as a diffuse scattering layer of water ice crystals near the summer polar mesopause. They consist of ice crystals and from the ground are only visible during astronomical twilight. Noctilucent roughly means "night shining" in Latin. They are most often observed during the summer months from latitudes between ±50° and ±70°. Too faint to be seen in daylight, they are visible only when the observer and the lower layers of the atmosphere are in Earth's shadow, but while these very high clouds are still in sunlight. Recent studies suggest that increased atmospheric methane emissions produce additional water vapor once the methane molecules reach the mesosphere - creating, or reinforcing existing noctilucent clouds. (Source: Wikipedia)

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