Twilight Rocket Trail

Have you seen a gorgeous red sky in the evening, just after sunset? If it’s cloudy, the effect becomes even more spectacular.  The Sunlight reflects off the clouds and back down to the ground, creating the calm of twilight.  Clouds only go so high, so as the Earth continues to turn and we go deeper into nighttime, the glow disappears.  But sometimes it sticks around a bit longer.

Image: James W. Young

During a rocket launch at dusk, the exhaust trail from the rocket climbs into the upper atmosphere, far above cloud layers.  It can reflect sunlight, with the shape of the particles refracting light to create gorgeous portraits of multiple colours.

Image: Andrew Phillips

There is a natural phenomenon similar to this, a type of cloud in the upper atmosphere, called a noctilucent cloud. Illuminated in a deep twilight, noctilucent clouds consist of ice particles in the upper atmosphere that produce spidery tendrils from refracted light.

Noctilucent clouds over Sweden.

I’ve never seen them myself, as they are very rare.  But from everything I’ve seen in photographs, they have made my must-see list.  Just when you think you’ve seen everything unique and interesting in space, there’s something else that pops up to pique your curiosity.

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