Extremely rare ‘rainbow clouds’ illuminate the Arctic Circle like the Northern Lights in stunning new images

Bright, multicolored clouds streak across the night sky over Iceland’s Jökultindur Mountain on January 25. (Image credit: Jónína Guðrún Óskarsdóttir)

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dark sky in Arctic Circle It recently shone with a multicolored ethereal light. But this amazing sight wasn’t caused by the Northern Lights. Instead, iridescent rainbows were caused by clouds of tiny ice crystals floating higher in the atmosphere than would normally be possible.

The clouds, known as polar stratospheric clouds (PSC), only form when the temperature of the lower stratosphere reaches minus 114 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 81 degrees Celsius). Normally, clouds don’t form in the stratosphere because it’s so dry, but at these extremely low temperatures, “widely spaced water molecules begin to coalesce into tiny ice crystals” that form in clouds, Spaceweather.com (Opens in a new tab) mentioned. This means that special stem cells can form much higher than normal clouds, between 9.3 and 15.5 miles (15 to 25 kilometers) above the Earth’s surface.

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