For the first time this year, NASA has captured the mysterious shiny polar clouds that tend to form 50 miles above Earth's surface. The first time these were noticed was on May 25th and many scientists do not have a clue why or how they form.
The clouds were caught by Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere. On June 6th, people in Northern Europe started noticing the same clouds. AIM is the first satellite mission dedicated to the study of these unusual cloud patterns.
They are called Polar Mesospheric Clouds, or PMCs when viewed from space and when they are viewed from the Earth, they are referred to as "night-shinning" clouds or Noctilucent Clouds.
They form in the upper layer of the Earth's atmosphere also known as the mesosphere usually during the Northern Hemisphere's summer season. This summer season tends to begin mid-May and extends until the end of August. They can also be seen in the higher latitudes during the summer months in the Southern Hemisphere.
Scientists are still trying to figure out how these clouds form over the poles, why they are being seen more frequently and at lower latitudes than ever before, or why are they brighter. For the first time, researchers have decided to monitor this through AIM and analyze it.
"It is clear that these clouds are changing, a sign that a part of our atmosphere is changing and we do not understand how, why or what it means," stated AIM principal investigator James Russell III of Hampton University, Hampton, Va. "These observations suggest a connection with global change in the lower atmosphere and could represent an early warning that our Earth environment is being changed."
AIM presents a really useful tool in analysis of the "night-shinning" clouds. It tells researchers about different shapes, sizes, where they form and also about particle formation. Researchers are trying to analyze the information they have gathered so far. They are also trying to connect the information and relate it to the global change.
Right now, AIM is analyzing information gathered from the Northern Hemisphere. Once the summer passes in August, AIM will start analyzing and gathering information form the Southern Hemisphere.