- Maciej Winiarczyk, 41, captured the images in Caithness, Scotland
- Noctilucent, or ‘night-shining’, clouds are normally too faint to be seen
- Half way through the video the clouds are joined by a spectacular aurora
A stunning time-lapse video of a rare celestial show has been captured dancing across a night sky.
The recording gives a rare glimpse of rolling noctilucent clouds and dancing aurora glimmering across the horizon.
The astronomer witnessed the famous Northern Lights and ‘night clouds’ earlier this month, over a single night above Caithness, Scotland.
It is unusual to see either phenomena, and incredibly rare to see both simultaneously.
Noctilucent – or ‘night-shining’ – clouds are made of sunlight-reflecting ice crystals and are normally too faint to be seen from the ground.
The clouds are the highest in atmosphere at around 50 miles above the Earth’s surface.
They are often photographed from aircraft in flight, from the International Space Station.
‘I’m an astronomer so I wanted to spend a night under the stars.
‘I was hoping to see the night-shining clouds, which I saw I got them shortly after sunset, and then suddenly I was treated to the aurora as well.
‘I was thrilled when I saw them.’
The video shows both the variety of noctilucent clouds and how their structure varies over time.
The lower clouds appear dark or fast moving and about halfway through the video they are joined by aurora.
Aurora is a natural light display in high-latitude regions and is caused by the collision of charged particles with atoms in the atmosphere.
In northern latitudes the effect is known as the aurora borealis and its southern counterpart is aurora australis.
Mr Winiarczyk, from Wick, Scotland, hoped to catch the Northern Lights during his trip, but it is incredibly hard to predict their timing, and to spot them in the summer months is very rare.
‘You can’t be sure that you are going to catch the auroras but you can try and predict them. It’s different to know when they will come,’ he said.
‘I saw the clear sky so I thought I may be able to shoot the Milky Way.
‘They are visible for about two hours and become brighter and then dimmer for about two hours.
‘If it had been a dimmer sky, I wouldn’t have seen anything at all.
‘Just to see this kind of sequence is hard but catching them in the summer time is really rare.
‘This winter months are the peak of solar activity when really magnificent displays can sometimes be seen.’
To create the time-lapse, Mr Winiarczyk took thousands of images to put together the stunning two-minute sky lapse.
‘I had to keep the camera on a tripod in one place in order for the photos not to be jumpy,’ he said.
‘It was incredible to watch.’
Polish-born Mr Winiarczyk, normally travels to places like this with his astronomy or photography group, however sometimes he admits that he likes to sit under the stars alone.
‘I love the darkness and the silence that comes with it,’ he said.
‘It’s nice to have the company but other times it’s better to be alone. It also means someone isn’t going to walk into your sequence.
‘I’m hoping to go back and revisit the Northern Lights. I’m watching out all the time for a good time and I’m always out with my camera.’
WHAT ARE NIGHT SHINING CLOUDS?
Night shining clouds, or noctilucent clouds, are usually found 80-85 km high in the coldest part of the atmosphere.
They are made up of extremely small ice crystals some 0.1 micron in diameter.
Their bluish coloration is thought to be a result of absorption of red light by the stratospheric ozone layer.
Occasionally they show reds and golds from the colour of low sunlight illuminating them.