The South Pole’s special blanket of clouds usually rolls in during late November and early December, just in time to give the Southern Hemisphere its very own light show for the holidays.

But this year, NASA says that the South Pole’s annual noctilucent, or night-shining, cloud show arrived much sooner than expected, in mid-November.

Usually, NASA uses the unusual clouds to decode the surrounding mesosphere, the atmospheric layer directly above the stratosphere, explained NASA’s Lina Tran in a blog post.

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