I saw many pictures of noctilucent clouds in the UK. Is it a phenomenon only visible in the UK or we can see it somewhere else?

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    $\begingroup$ The wikipedia article seems to be pretty complete. It says that "They are most commonly observed in the summer months at latitudes between 50° and 70° north and south of the equator. They can be observed only when the Sun is below the horizon." $\endgroup$ Jul 13, 2014 at 13:59

2 Answers 2


Noctilucent clouds form during summer at high latitudes, such as between 50 and 70°N. They are noctilucent because at their high elevation (80 km), the sun is still shining, although the sun is below the horizon at ground level. Due to this high elevation, you can see them from several 100s of km south of their actual location. This means the ideal viewing location is at around 55–60°N; the night there gets dark enough throughout the summer, while the noctilucent clouds a bit further north are still sunlit.

If you go too far north, you will not see them very well, because the night will be too bright. I lived for 5 years at 68°N, and although they could easily be detected by ground-based lidar, I never saw any myself.


Just to add to gerrit's answer and as the question does not specify a hemisphere, noctilucent clouds are also visible in the Southern Hemisphere, which according to the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) webpage Noctilucent clouds, but with some differences to those observed in the Northern Hemisphere - predominantly in Antarctica and are viewable even during the southern summer when the sun is between 6 and 16 degrees below the horizon.

The picture below is from the AAD, Antarctic Davis base, when the sun was 10 degrees below the horizon:

enter image description here

There have been less observations in the Southern Hemisphere due there being less populated landmasses at the best viewing latitudes. According to the Australian Geographic article Rare 'shining' clouds linked to climate change, the best places to view the clouds are either on a ship, Antarctica and southern Argentina and Chile in summer.


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