AIM Banner


The Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM)

The AIM satellite mission will explore Polar Mesospheric Clouds (PMCs), also called noctilucent clouds (NLCs), to find out why they form and why they are changing. Scientists do not understand why this is happening, and would like to find out. Results from this mission will provide the basis for study of long-term variability in the mesospheric climate. In particular, they wish to determine if these changes are caused by natural variations in the Earth’s atmosphere, or if they are influenced by human activities.

NASA will launch the AIM satellite to orbit the Earth for at least two years. The overall goal of the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) experiment is to resolve why Polar Mesospheric Clouds (PMCs) form and why they vary. By measuring PMCs and the thermal, chemical and dynamical environment in which they form, we will quantify the connection between these clouds and the meteorology of the polar mesosphere. In the end, this will provide the basis for study of longterm variability in the mesospheric climate and its relationship to global change.

The results of AIM will be a rigorous validation of predictive models that can reliably use past PMC changes and present trends as indicators of global change. This goal will be achieved by measuring PMC abundances, spatial distribution, particle size distributions, gravity wave activity, cosmic dust influx to the atmosphere and precise, vertical profile measurements of temperature, H2O, OH, CH4, O3, CO2, NO, and aerosols. These data can be obtained only by a complement of instruments on an orbiting spacecraft because of the need for global coverage and because extinction and foreground emissions compromise optical sensing from the ground.

Disciplines Encompassed

An effective strategy for delivering this activity could include allotting several class periods to represent various disciplines. Teachers in each of the following disciplines will readily find relevant ties between the content of the activity and course objectives:

  • Earth System Science
  • Environmental Science
  • Geography
  • Meteorology/Climate
  • Social Studies
  • Technology

Teacher's Guide

I. AIM Mission Objectives
II. Key Questions for Students
III. Problem-Solving Model
IV. Materials and Procedures


A: Sample Student Activity Sheet
B: Assessment Rubric
C: National Science Education Standards

PBL Navigation

> PBL Scenario
> Atmospheric Gravity Waves
> Cosmic Dust
> Mesosphere
> Polar Mesospheric Clouds
> Polar Orbiting Satellites

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

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