As we advance deeper into the noctilucent cloud season, we haven’t witnessed any huge display yet. However things have taken another turn for me in the recent weeks, and I am very excited to announce a huge piece of news. I have been contacted by a NASA-funded research program: the Project PoSSUM (Polar Sub-orbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere). This citizen-scientist-based program deals with training astronauts to do all kinds of research and missions in the upper mesosphere, including sending the first man-based airborne mission to study noctilucent clouds up close. I mean literally close: they will fly to and through NLC’s to study their tomography and behavior, in an effort to get a better understanding at how they develop and how they could be related to other factors or consequences, like climate change.
People and scientists have been eager to study NLC’s for a long time, without really being able to do so (or having the ressources/reasons to). That’s why they are conducting this type of program now, and that’s why they have enjoyed visionning my videos of NLC’s. As I was also trying to get ground-based footage of these intriguing clouds, I always wanted to get closer, using a longer focal length. Below 100mm, the clouds form a magnificent electric-blue glowing sheet against the night sky, which is in itself, something from another world. However, when you switch to longer focal lengths like 300mm or 500mm, you start noticing structures, shapes and behaviors that would totally go unnoticed with the naked eye. I could not believe what I was watching, as I edited the photos from the 500mm raw footage, probably because it had never extensively been done in this way in the past, but also because it reveals how complicated, delicate and sometimes violent NLC’s can actually be. I assume that is the reason why the scientists at PoSSUM got intersted in this kind of imagery, probably because it gave them a sneak peak at what they were going to encounter…
In this movie, almost exclusively shot at 500mm focal length, I assembled a series of 4K time-lapse sequences from the 2016 NLC season, all taken with my Sony a7rII and Canon 70D, and mostly Sigma 150-500mm APO f/5-6.3. I wanted to show that, depending on a lot of unknown conditions and factors, sometimes triggered by teleconnections hundred of kilometers away, NLCs are a genuine ocean of ice in the night sky, either developing gently into a smooth and uniform billowed sheet, or sometimes create large-scale tsunamis when two currents meet. Their wave-like patterns reminds a lot of those produced by water populating our seas or lakes, but who has ever seen an ocean of suspended ice particles in the air? Better yet, who has ever studied their mechanics and behavior, when it doesn’t precisely behave like anything else on Earth on such a large scale? Bands, whirls, pools, troughs, billows, net-like strutures, and blizzard moving on top of the stars like a ghostly veil, that’s a spectacle that more than one will surely enjoy watching up close!
If you hadn’t guessed yet, this short film is a tribute to the next page that is opening in my professional career. I have been invited to work with project PoSSUM and its team in High Levels, Alberta, Canada this summer, to attend their air-borne NLC imagery mission, and if you can’t tell, I am sooooo excited about it! What an opportunity to meet new people and learn tons of things, while doing what I like? I will help them conduct the research work, document the expedition with stories, pictures and film, while also raising awareness and education about NLC’s to the public and media. As a consequence, this this my last video in Denmark, at least for a while! However I will be posting (within the boundaries of what I am allowed to disclose) pictures and stories about the development of this exciting and extra-ordinary mission on my blog and social media, so make sure to make your way to:
In the mean time, you can read more about the project at: projectpossum.org
Thank you for watching. Don’t hesitate to like, comment, share and of course subscribe to my channel for more videos coming soon!