Contacts | Questions?
AIM:Exploring Clouds at the Edge of Space


AIM 2017 Extended Mission Proposal



SOFIE resumed science measurements on November 21, 2017, when the AIM orbit beta angle became low enough (below ~67 degrees) to enable solar occultation to be viewed from orbit. These observations are in the Northern winter and feature nearly co-located sunrise and sunset measurements, that will be used in investigations of the mesospheric vortex. continue ->

Read more & Latest Data



since AIM launched.

Launch Date: 25 April 2007

Location: Vandenberg AFB, California, USA

Launch Vehicle: Pegasus

Orbit: Sun-synchronus

Inclination: 97.8 degrees

Period: 96 min, 32 sec

After initial spacecraft stabilization, the spacecraft and instruments underwent extensive commissioning activities to ensure proper operation.


NASA Websites about AIM:


NASA Images and Animations



CDE Instrument

Final Mass, Power, & Data Rates for SOFIE, CIPS, CDE, BUS, and their totals.


AIM Satellite Location Generator
Current AIM Location

Use the AIM Orbit Generator
for details and orbit prediction

Find overpass times
for your groundstation


Download Documentation:

Software Tools:


The Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) satellite mission is exploring Polar Mesospheric Clouds (PMCs), also called noctilucent clouds, to find out why they form and why they are changing.

The AIM mission was launced in 2007 and has been extended by NASA through the end of FY15. During this time the instruments monitor noctilucent clouds to better understand their variability and possible connection to climate change. Individual instrument data collection status, as well as spacecraft and instrument health, will be monitored throughout the life of the mission and reported periodically on this website.

The primary goal of the AIM mission is to help scientists understand whether the clouds' ephemeral nature, and their variation over time, is related to Earth's changing climate - and to investigate why they form in the first place. By measuring the thermal, chemical and other properties of the environment in which the mysterious clouds form, the AIM mission will provide researchers with a foundation for the study of long-term variations in the mesosphere and its relationship to global climate change. In addition to measuring environmental conditions, the AIM mission will collect data on cloud abundance, how the clouds are distributed, and the size of particles within them.


Glowing silver-blue clouds that sometimes light up summer night skies at high latitudes, after sunset and before sunrise, are called noctilucent clouds. Also known as night shining clouds, they form in the highest reaches of the atmosphere – the mesosphere – as much as 50 miles (80 km) above the Earth’s surface. They’re seen during summer in polar regions. They’re typically seen between about 45° and 60° latitude, from May through August in the Northern Hemisphere or November through February in the Southern Hemisphere.

Click here for a video of noctilucent clouds over Antarctica in early 2014.

Noctilucent clouds are thought to be made of ice crystals that form on fine dust particles from meteors. They can only form when temperatures are incredibly low and when there’s water available to form ice crystals.

Why do these clouds – which require such cold temperatures – form in the summer?

+ Photos/Video


Spaceweather Photo Gallery


Observing tips: Look west 30 to 60 minutes after sunset when the Sun has dipped 6o to 16o below the horizon. If you see luminous blue-white tendrils spreading across the sky, you've probably spotted a noctilucent cloud. Although noctilucent clouds appear most often at arctic latitudes, they have been sighted in recent years as far south as Colorado, Utah and Virginia. NLCs are seasonal, appearing most often in late spring and summer. In the northern hemisphere, the best time to look would be between mid-May and the end of August.


SOFIE Latest Results
Date: October 23, 2019

SOFIE returned to science measurements in October 2018, when the AIM orbit propagated to sufficiently low beta angles. The orbit is now reversed in direction compared to the previous ~12 years, so that SOFIE spacecraft sunset (sunrise) now occurs in the Northern (Southern) Hemisphere. SOFIE science and housekeeping parameters all indicate a stable and healthy instrument. SOFIE V1.3 data are available online. 


NASA spacecraft spies electric-blue clouds over Antarctica
Date: January 7, 2018

These noctilucent, or night-shining, clouds are seeded by debris from disintegrating meteors. They glow electric blue when they reflect sunlight.

click to enlarge

Noctilucent (“night-shining”) cloud over Antarctica in early January, 2018, from NASA’s AIM satellite.

The sky over Antarctica is now glowing electric blue with noctilucent, or night-shining, clouds. That’s according to recent images from NASA’s AIM spacecraft (Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere), which monitors these clouds for the whole Earth. Read more ->

Why did last week's SpaceX launch look so strange?
Date: December 26, 2017

Space Weather News "Noctilucent Clouds from Space"
Date: July 28, 2017

NASA's AIM spacecraft is back in business. Following a months-long interruption in normal operations, the polar-orbiting satellite is beaming back new images of noctilucent clouds at the edge of space. Data arriving now show a magnificent ring of electric-blue surrounding Earth's north pole, confirming recent sightings from the surface of our planet. Visit today's edition of to learn more about these strange clouds and the status of AIM.

NLCs are, essentially, clouds of frosted meteor smoke. They form when wisps of summertime water vapor rise toward the top of Earth's atmosphere. Water molecules stick to the microscopic debris of disintegrated meteoroids, assembling themselves into tiny crystals of ice that glow beautifully in sunlight at the edge of space.

Above: Noctilucent clouds surround Earth's north pole in this July 24th image from NASA's AIM spacecraft.

After delayed start, magnificent noctilucent clouds are back in full effectDate: July 04, 2017
The Watchers

Mystery of the Missing NLCs
Date: June 15, 2017

NASA’s AIM Observes Early Noctilucent Ice Clouds Over Antarctica
Date: December 2, 2016

animation of AIM data illustrating noctilucent clouds over Antarctica
Data from NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere, or AIM, spacecraft shows the sky over Antarctica is glowing electric blue due to the start of noctilucent, or night-shining, cloud season in the Southern Hemisphere. This data was collected from Nov. 17-28, 2016.
Credits: NASA/HU/VT/CU-LASP/AIM/Joy Ng, producer
View Full Article

Record Early Start of Southern Hemisphere NLC Season
Date: November 28, 2016
The Watchers

AIM Flight Operations Team Honored with NASA's Group Achievement Award

Date: November 9, 2016
View Details

ScienceCasts: Electric Blue Sunsets

Date: August 16, 2016

Climate Change at the Edge of Space
Date: June 29, 2016
View Article

Noctilucent Clouds Behaving Strangely
Date: March 1, 2015
View Article

Unexpected Teleconnections in Noctilucent Clouds
Date: June 24, 2014
View Article and Animation

Source: NASA

Press Release Archive

AIM Partner Institutions
NASA's Sun-Earth Education Forum Logo

The AIM mission is a part of
NASA's Sun-Earth Connection Education Forum.

Responsible Official: James M. Russell III
Last Modified: November 14, 2019

Web Curator: Emily M. W. Hill
Emily Hill Designs
NASA Hampton University Naval Research Laboratory Utah State University Norwegian University of Science and Technology