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AIM Satellite Mission Patch



All systems on AIM are functioning nominally.  Also, in order to mitigate the effects of the solar eclipse which occurred on October 23rd, AIM was transitioned to its backup attitude control mode (TMON/RTS Control) prior to the eclipse, and transitioned back to OOMP (the normal control mode) on the evening of October 24th.

CIPS data October 2014

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15 – 19 December
San Francisco

Session ID#: 3457

Session Title:  Ice Layers in the Mesopause Region: Their Physics, Relationship to the Environment in Which They Form, and Response to External Forcings

Session Description: We are in a period of unprecedented progress in understanding the mesopause region and ice layers that form there. There have been significant advances in ground and space observations of the ice layers as well as temperature, water, other relevant species, and the particulates which serve as ice nucleation sites. Sophisticated multidimensional models of this region now incorporate microphysics calculations and serve as crucial tools in understanding the coupling between mesopause ice layers and the mesopause environment. We solicit papers discussing the microphysics of the ice layers, the composition and structure of the mesopause environment, nucleation sources and processes, variability in the mesospheric environment on all spatial and temporal scales and ice response to that variability, vertical and meridional coupling, and the extent and causes of long-term changes. Observational and theoretical papers are welcome.


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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.


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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?

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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.


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.


Unexpected Teleconnections in Noctilucent Clouds
Science @ NASA

New data from NASA's AIM spacecraft have revealed "teleconnections" in Earth's atmosphere that stretch all the way from the North Pole to the South Pole and back again, linking weather and climate more closely than simple geography would suggest. read more

A Bullseye in the Sky Over Texas
This is a thin glowing layer of Earth's atmosphere rippling in the wake of a huge thunderstorm.


Appearance of Night-Shining Clouds has Increased
Science Codex


First spotted in 1885, silvery blue clouds sometimes hover in the night sky near the poles, appearing to give off their own glowing light. Known as noctilucent clouds, this phenomenon began to be sighted at lower and lower latitudes -- between the 40th and 50th parallel -- during the 20th century, causing scientists to wonder if the region these clouds inhabit had indeed changed -- information that would tie in with understanding the weather and climate of all Earth.


Mysterious Summer Clouds of the Night
BBC Scotland

Noctilucent clouds are the world's highest types of cloud. Although uncommon, they can regularly be seen from the UK in the summer, with the annual peak in activity about 20 days after midsummer.

The rarefied clouds appear 50 miles (89.5km) above the Earth in the mesosphere, right on the edge of space, and glow with a white-blue light.

Fluffy cumulus clouds tend to sit at just one mile from the ground. The highest common cloud, the thin and wispy cirrus, still only reach around eight miles (12.8km) high.

So what makes noctilucent clouds so different to ordinary clouds, and why do they form?


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