Noctilucent, or “night-shining,” clouds (NLCs) are a spectacular optical nighttime phenomenon that is very often neglected in the context of atmospheric optics. This paper gives a brief overview of current understanding of NLCs by providing a simple physical picture of their formation, relevant observational characteristics, and scientific challenges of NLC research. Modern ground-based photographic NLC observations, carried out in the framework of automated digital camera networks around the globe, are outlined. In particular, the obtained results refer to studies of single quasi-stationary waves in the NLC field. These waves exhibit specific propagation properties—high localization, robustness, and long lifetime—that are the essential requisites of solitary waves.
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