Feeds

NASA snaps mysterious night-shining clouds

Noctilucent, no less

Build a business case: developing custom apps

A NASA satellite has captured its first images of noctilucent clouds, brightly lit night-time clouds that form high in Earth's atmosphere during each hemisphere's summer.

The night-shining clouds form between May and September in the northern hemisphere. Very little is known about how they form, or why they are appearing more regularly, and at lower altitudes.

NASA says that now its Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) mission is in place, it is seeing them more frequently as the summer season progresses.

First satellite snaps of the noctilucent clouds. Image credit: NASA

First satellite snaps of the noctilucent clouds

When viewed from space, the mysterious luminescent clouds are known as Polar Mesospheric Clouds, or PMCs. AIM principal investigator James Russell III of Hampton University says the changes in the PMCs suggests a connection with global changes in the lower atmosphere, and could be an early warning that our environment is being altered.

"It is clear that PMCs are changing, a sign that a distant and rarified part of our atmosphere is being altered, and we do not understand how, why, or what it means," he said.

The AIM satellite was launched at the end of April this year (2007). The satellite began taking scientific observations just four weeks after it was inserted into orbit. NASA says all three of its instruments are now returning high quality data.

The satellite is equipped with panoramic cameras to collect daily images of the Arctic polar cap. It is also measuring the variation in size of the particles that make up the cloud as part of the Solar Occultation for ice experiment, and recording the amount of space dust entering the atmosphere for the Cosmic Dust experiment. NASA scientists will use this data to work out what role cosmic dust plays in the formation of the clouds.

AIM is the latest in a string of small, very specific Earth-observation missions launched by NASA under the Small Explorers banner.

When the northern hemisphere's noctilucent cloud season comes to a close in mid to late August, the satellite will not have long to wait before it can begin observations of the clouds in the southern skies. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.