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MISSION STATUS ARCHIVES:
SUMMARY STATUS
04-25-07 to 02.07.08

AIM is the first satellite mission dedicated to the study of noctilucent or “night-shining” clouds (NLCs) also called Polar Mesospheric clouds (PMCs). It has provided the first global-scale view of the clouds over the entire 2007 Northern Hemisphere season with an unprecedented resolution of 5 km by 5 km and is nearing completion of observations in the Southern Hemisphere season. Despite a significant increase in PMC research in recent years, relatively little is known about the basic physics of these clouds at ”the edge of space” and why they are changing. They have increased in brightness over time, are being seen more often and appear to be occurring at lower latitudes than ever before. The overall goal of the baseline mission is to determine why PMCs form and vary. Since the launch of AIM on April 25, 2007, significant progress has been made in achieving this goal and that progress continues at a rapid rate. The AIM data is of very high quality and has changed our view of PMCs and their environment after only one northern hemisphere (NH) season of observations. The startling similarity between the PMC structure observed by CIPS and that seen in tropospheric clouds suggests that the mesosphere may share some of the same dynamical processes responsible for weather near Earth’s surface. If this similarity holds up in further analysis, it introduces an entirely different view of potential mechanisms responsible for PMC formation and variability.

The AIM spacecraft, instruments, and all subsystems are healthy and fully functional. An intermittent issue with the uplink has been mitigated by adding full autonomy to the spacecraft and instruments and enabling 24 days worth of command loads. AIM is fully prepared to deliver the exciting new science enabled by an extended mission.

We propose here to extend the mission through 2012. This 3-year extension will allow AIM to address new science that requires a longer period of observations and opens the way for deeper probing of the mysteries surrounding the causes of why these clouds form and vary.

The extended mission will provide data during the rising phase of the solar cycle to address solar effects on PMC formation under varying solar conditions. The longer data record will allow interannual variations in atmospheric properties to be characterized and correlated with PMC changes. The question of teleconnection focuses on the provocative new suggestion that the summertime phenomenon of PMCs is strongly driven by the winter hemisphere. These objectives directly address two of four Heliophysics focus areas for the objective “Understand the Nature of Our Home in Space” including: 1) Determine changes in the Earth’s magnetosphere, ionosphere, and upper atmosphere to enable specification, prediction, and mitigation of their effects and 2) Understand the role of the Sun as an energy source to Earth’s atmosphere and in particular, the role of solar variability in driving change. The mission also directly addresses two Earth Science focus areas including atmospheric composition and climate variability and change.

Major Findings from the First NH Season
AIM has provided the most detailed picture of NH clouds ever collected:
• The clouds appear every day, are widespread and are highly variable on hourly to daily time scales.
• PMC brightness varies over horizontal scales of a few kilometers, and because of the AIM high horizontal resolution, we now know that over small regions the clouds are ten times brighter than measured by previous space-based instruments.
• A previously suspected, but never before seen, population of very small ice particles was measured that is believed to be responsible for strong radar echoes from the summertime mesosphere.
• Mesospheric ice occurs in one continuous layer extending from below the main peak at 83 km up to around 90 km.
• Mesospheric cloud structures, resolved for the first time by the CIPS imager, exhibit complex features present in normal tropospheric clouds.

Extended Mission Science Objectives
• Are there temporal variations in PMCs that can be explained by changes in solar irradiance and particle input?
• What changes in mesospheric properties are responsible for north/south differences in PMC features?
• What atmospheric properties are responsible for interannual variability in PMCs?
• What is the mechanism of teleconnection between winter temperatures and summer hemisphere PMC’s?
• An optimal funding study of gravity waves is proposed: What is the global occurrence rate of gravity waves outside the PMC domain?

Mission Status Archive

Spacecraft & Instrument Status

2017
2017.03.01
2017.01.26

2016
2016.11.28
2016.08.19
2016.07.29
2016.05.26
2016.04.19
2016.03.08

2015
2015.07.28
2015.06.20
2015.05.16
2015.04.30
2015.03.09

2014
2014.11.17
2014.10.31
2014.10.13
2014.09.25
2014.08.14
2014.06.01
2014.05.03

2013
2013.10.29
2013.05.31

2012
2012.12.10
2012.10.24
2012.09.12
2012.07.20
2012.04.26
2012.02.10

2011
2011.09.24
2011.06.01
2011.05.08
2011.02.15

2010
2010.12.03
2010.11.05
2010.10.01
2010.09.10
2010.08.10
2010.07.01
2010.06.07
2010.04.25
2010.03.18
2010.01.22

2009
2009.11.13
2009.10.13
2009.09.12
2009.08.08
2009.07.17
2009.06.25
2009.05.01
2009.04.03
2009.03.16
2009.03.01
2009.02.10
2009.01.19

2008
2008.12.22
2008.12.05
2008.11.01
2008.10.01
2008.09.03
2008.08.15
2008.08.01
2008.07.11
2008.07.04
2008.06.27
2008.06.20
2008.06.13
2008.06.06
2008.05.30
2008.05.23
2008.05.16
2008.05.09
2008.05.02
2008.04.25
2008.04.18
2008.04.11
2008.04.04
2008.03.28
2008.03.21
2008.03.14
2008.02.07
2008.02.07
2008.02.07

04-25-07 - 02.07.08

Summary Status

Science Status

Spacecraft, Instrument and Science Processing System

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

Responsible Official: James M. Russell III

Web Curator: Emily M. W. Hill
Emily Hill Designs