Noctilucent or polar mesospheric clouds

Noctilucent or polar mesospheric clouds, form at very high altitudes—between 80 and 85 kilometers (50–53 miles)—which positions them to reflect light long after the Sun has dropped below the horizon.  Photograph  Jan Erik Paulsen

After the Sun sets on a summer evening and the sky fades to black, you may be lucky enough to see thin, wavy clouds illuminating the night, such as these seen over Billund, Denmark, on July 15, 2010.

Noctilucent clouds 2

Noctilucent clouds

These “night-shining” clouds are rare—rare enough that Matthew DeLand, who has been studying them for 11 years, has only seen them once in person. But the chances of seeing these elusive clouds are increasing.

via earthobservatory