MISSION SUMMARY - 2
|As a first step, NASA will launch
the AIM satellite to orbit the Earth for at least two years.
AIM is designed to discover how and why PMCs form and why they
change. To accomplish this, the satellite will have three instruments
that provide information about PMCs and their environment. One
instrument, called CIPS, will take pictures of the clouds to
determine when and where they form, and what they look like.
Above: The CIPS
Imaging and Particle
|Another instrument, called SOFIE,
will measure the temperature of the mesosphere and how much
water vapor is present, to determine what combination of these
is necessary to freeze the water into ice crystals that form
PMCs. This instrument will also measure the amounts of other
gases to tell scientists more about the chemistry and movement
of air in the mesosphere that might lead to cloud formation
The third instrument, called CDE, measures how much
dust from meteors enters the Earth’s atmosphere. This is important
because scientists wish to find out if a tiny speck of dust is necessary
to provide a surface on which water vapor condenses and freezes;
it is possible that without dust, PMCs are much less likely to form.
Above: The CDE
NLCs are intriguing clouds that inspire awe and wonder in those people
lucky enough to observe them. Observations in the last decade suggest
that it is more and more likely that even people in the continental
United States and southern Europe will be able to see NLCs from their
own backyards. The AIM mission will explore these clouds at the edge
of space to solve their mysteries.