Polar Stratospheric Clouds at Sunset and Sunrise, February 18th/19th

Another first for me, even though I've been watching the skies for some 20 years. Polar Stratospheric Clouds (PSCs) are sometimes formed at high latitudes when the stratosphere is at exceptionally low temperatures. I'd never seen them before, or witnessed their effects on sunsets. The skies had been completely cloud free for a couple of days, allowing these clouds to be brightly illuminated after sunset. More information on the event can be found here, it was winessed over large parts of Western Europe that evening as a spectacularly bright sunset afterglow.
I had been down at the coast taking advantage of the clear skies for some post-sunset scenes. Usually, when its clear, the sunset is generally not that exciting, as there are no clouds to create the vivid pinks of, say, an altocumulus display. This sunset was just that initially, so I decided to head home after taking this shot, about 5 minutes after sunset:


However, as soon as I arrived home, some 15 minutes later, the sky suddenly began to get brighter, having slowly got darker up to this point! The light was very unusual, everywhere bathed in a white/yellow hue. The sky to the west was becoming too bright to look at directly. Bear in mind this is 25 minutes after sunset:

Bright Sky

A bizarre sight, as the streetlights were shining, yet it was bright as day:


A full 30 minutes after sunset and the glow finally got less bright. This allowed some amazing colours to be revealed, as well as some structure, as a shadow from a far distant cloud or landmass cast a shadow on the PSCs:


In anticipation of a repeat performance the next day, I was up early and headed to a vantage point in the New Forest for the sunrise. Again, the colours were vivid about 30 minutes before sunrise. Note the dark clouds in the photo are actually cirrus, silhouetted against the PSCs above:


And again, another spectacular, bright pre-dawn glow, around 20 minutes before sunrise:


A close-up view of the cirrus against the brilliantly bright PSCs. It would be another 10 minutes before the sun's rays turned the cirrus patch pink: