Last night we sat by the fire in the backyard. We were only a day away from the longest day of the year and still, after all these years, marvelling that the sun was still light on the horizon at 11:30 and the sky showing blue. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The stars were trying hard to shine but the sun was throwing too much light and almost completely washing them out. I kept my eyes peeled for Noctilucent Cloud* in hopes they would come out and not be overshadowed by regular clouds for a nice change. Their brilliance is made possible by the sun, so a great cooperative effort must exist between the two. Just after midnight I noticed them quite a bit more to the northeast than they had been 2 weeks ago. I grabbed the camera and ventured into the nearby schoolyard where they actually managed to create a creepy atmosphere over the dark, deserted playground – something Stephen King might well have imagined. I took a few shots but I didn’t have my tripod and called it quits. I had only ventured out on a whim. Hubby noticed Saturn and Jupiter had risen and were putting on their own show to the south of me. There was no chance of catching them with the MD buildings lit up like Christmas. Grrr. So I came home and we put away our cushions and bade goodnight to the fire which had been quite needed on this chilly June night. Hubby then uttered the fateful words “are you going back out?”. I hadn’t really planned too. It was late and the planets would rise all summer. But to catch the Nocs in a clear sky? That doesn’t happen everyday. I said goodbye to my waiting p.j.s and by 12:45 I had the tripod and my gear set up at my usual site.
They were spectacular! I played until 1:13 and could do no more. Clouds were starting to creep in very stealthily and it would not be long before they photobombed the heck out of the Nocs. And I was tired.
I then turned my attention to Saturn and Jupiter, who could not be left out…they were dazzling in the night sky and close enough to fit in the same frame. Jupiter’s moons were lined up arrow straight across the planet. Clouds were gaining on these two as well. I think the clouds get jealous of the attention other characters in the sky receive. Many astrophotographers call their gear “cloud magnets” or “cloud producing devices” because, well…it never seems to fail!
I arrived home grateful and tired and greeted by two cats who were wondering why they hadn’t had their bedtime cuddle. But when the skies call…don’t let a little thing like sleep get in the way. To paraphrase Stephen (Etienne) Grellet, “Let me not defer it or neglect it, for it shall not pass this way again”. And truly, no two nights ever really look the same.
*Noctilucent clouds are a cloud-like phenomena high in the upper atmosphere of Earth (65-80 kms up). They are too faint to be seen in daylight, and are visible only when illuminated by sunlight from below the horizon while the lower layers of the atmosphere are in Earth’s shadow. They are visible only during the summer (I’ve seen them into mid July) during astronomical twilight (the Sun is below the viewer’s horizon but the clouds are still in sunlight) – from latitudes between 50° and 70° north and south of the Equator. Ardmore is at 54°N (Calgary is at 51°N). Unlike the Aurora…they are just there…moving, but imperceptibly so and hanging out until the sun sinks too low below the horizon.