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StarDome Blog

by Sonia Turkington FRAS.

 

Each Month Sonia will bring you a roundup of the latest astronomy & Space news directly to this page.

 

 

Hi I'm Sonia, I have been into astronomy since 1997 when I was 11 years old when comet Hale Bopp was around.

I remember being in the back garden with my dad and he was showing me how to take a photo of it with his old Fujica camera,

that I still have now. Ever since then I've been fascinated with space.

 

 I started with a very cheap Tasco telescope from Argos to look at the moon, went onto a Meade go-to - ETX  90 telescope, which unfortunately due to it's age stopped working. For a very long time I have also used a Skywatcher 10" Dobsonian, to mostly photograph the moon with a moon filter and also the planets.

 

I now have a Seestar S-50 which has got me into deep sky imaging which I love! I also own a Coronado PST for solar imaging.

 

 I have two Bsc. (Hons) Open degrees in "Introducing Astronomy and the planets".

In 2023 I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and am also Vice President since 2024

for the Manchester Astronomical Society. Also I am currently a freelancer for the BBC sky at night magazine.  

 

Clear Skies​

 

Sonia

 

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Noctilucent Cloud Season

 

So, noctilucent cloud season is well under way and we’ve had some excellent displays from across the UK.

 

Before I go into detail of how we see them and what causes them, lets check out some of your amazing photos! A big thank you, to those who let me use them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How, what, where and why do these “clouds” appear.

 

These clouds can only be seen in the summer months, usually end of May to the beginning of August. They are known to be extremely rare clouds that can only be seen on clear summer nights, but they don’t produce any precipitation.

 

They start to appear, usually when the sun has set and the brightest of stars start to appear, before it goes dark and look blue or silver in colour. The Latin name for Noctilucent means “night shining”

 

You can see them after the dark they reflect the sunlight because they are at a great height. At least 200,00o base height. They can be seen in the atmosphere of the Mesosphere, which is where the highest clouds are of the atmosphere but can only be seen where the latitude is between 45 degrees and 80 degrees. So, the UK is in the right place (in the northern hemisphere) to be able to see these type of clouds. You can’t really see these in the Southern Hemisphere. Maybe just about in the South of Chile, Argentina and the Antarctic.

 

What causes them to form?

Because of the height of the mesosphere you get the very low temperatures and are formed of ice crystals. But, the one thing these clouds are in short supply of up there is water vapour and dust. Scientists think that the tiny dust particles could be from meteors from space. However, also man made substances such as pollution could contribute to being able to see these. However, scientists also think that they could be caused from the troposphere where moisture is getting through the gaps or a chemical reaction is occurring of methane and other chemicals.

So, are these clouds good that we can see them or bad, due to the fact of how they could be made? I’ll let you all be the judge of that!

 

Usually they can be seen between 10pm – 12pm, anytime after 12pm until around 3-4am when the sun is about to rise. They can be seen mostly looking North, I usually look for the star Capella and they are usually around that region.

 

 

Happy Noctilucent hunting and clear skies!

 

Next month we will be looking at the Appley Bridge Meteorite with Russell Parry!

 

 

 

Here is what is the latest in space news

 

“A Chinese lunar probe has returned to Earth with soil and rock samples from the little-explored far side of the Moon.”

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/china-space-probe-returns-to-earth-with-rare-rocks-from-far-side-of-the-moon/ar-BB1oQyrR?ocid=BingNewsSerp

 

“Sprites from space! Astronaut photographs rare red lightning phenomenon from ISS”

https://www.space.com/iss-red-lightning-sprite-thunderstorm-image

 

“It's back! Aurora-sparking sunspot returns for rare 3rd trip across the sun, firing off explosive solar flare (video)”

https://www.space.com/sunspot-region-responsible-may-solar-storm-auroras-returns-for-third-time-solar-flare

 

“Perseverance Mars rover digs into intriguing 'Bright Angel' rock formation (photo)”

https://www.space.com/perseverance-mars-rover-bright-angel-science

 

 

“Voyager 1 Returning Science Data From All Four Instruments”

https://science.nasa.gov/missions/voyager-program/voyager-1/voyager-1-returning-science-data-from-all-four-instruments/

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