It sounds like something from a retro horror comic, but few people say these mysterious and eerie glowing clouds don't exist anymore. They have been documented and seen by enough meteorologists to confirm beyond a reasonable doubt that they exist. Now if only we could figure out where they come from. Though they crowd the skies now more than ever before, no one knows what causes these mysterious glowing clouds.
They're called noctilucent or night-shining clouds. And though they're not an everyday occurrence, they are glowing up and showing up a lot more lately. Often mistaken for UFOs, the strange glowing clouds were first discovered in 1885, shortly after the eruption of Mount Krakatoa. They normally manifest as a pale blue in deep twilight, but sometimes shed an eerie green over the landscape. More often than not, they appear in the upper regions near Alaska, Siberia, and the northern regions of Canada.
The Amazing Planet staff at Space.com recently interviewed Matthew DeLand and found that the mysterious glowing balls of light are being studied by NASA, and though they still have many questions are hoping to find a breakthrough in the mysterious sea of data out there in the near future. Of course the search for answers has been going on for quite some time. Starting in 2000, DeLand said has only seen one of the glowing clouds in his whole life.
Has the phenomenon been mistaken for UFO's? It's hard to tell, but the eerie luminescent glow generally collects in thin summer's afternoon looking clouds. And even then they appear mostly on the horizon. The strange phenomenon has often been theorized to be related to the effects seen in the aurora borealis. And though they may look like a static shot of the aurora borealis, scientists like DeLand suggest they're actually caused by extremely cold conditions.
In 2007, NASA launched the AIM satellite from the Pegasus-XL rocket. The AIM satellite, short for Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere, sought to see whether the formation of these big glowing clouds was the result of Global Warming. 26-months later the satellite's mission was complete and a mountain of data is still being sifted through to try to clear up this mystery in the skies.
And raw data wasn't the only thing NASA has brought back from orbit in regards to noctilucent clouds. After spending months scanning the skies from above, in 2003 Ed Lu from the International Space Station brought back some compelling video footage of the clouds in motion. That's not the sea being filmed from space during the day. It's actually a massive cloud being filmed in the middle of the night glowing.