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I was out with the camera at about 1am last night to catch the Milky Way rising in the South. I was snapping away for about 45mins when I turned around and saw a bright glow in the sky just above the peak of Cnoc An Óir. I couldn't see what was causing the glow so I packed my gear into the car and drove to the top of the hill. The glow was actually clouds shining brightly over Clare, so bright in fact that they gave a glow to the Shannon estuary underneath.

This natural phenomenon is known as noctilucent clouds which up until recently were seen almost exclusively in Earth’s polar regions.

They are formed by ice literally at the boundary where the earth’s atmosphere meets space 50 miles up, they shine because they are so high that they remain lit by the sun even after our star is well below the horizon.

The clouds might be beautiful, but they could portend global changes caused by global warming. Noctilucent clouds are a fundamentally new phenomenon in the temperate mid-latitude sky, and it’s not clear why they’ve migrated down from the poles. Or why, over the last 25 years, more of them are appearing in the polar regions, too, and shining more brightly.

Nobody knows for sure, but most of the answers seem to point to human-caused global atmospheric change.

Moneypoint Powerstation can be seen on the right of this panoramic.

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