Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

AIM Mission To Study Noctilucent Clouds

22.06.2004


The University of Colorado at Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics has been selected by NASA to build two of the three instruments for a satellite that will launch in 2006 to study noctilucent clouds, the shiny, silvery-blue polar mesospheric clouds that form about 50 miles over Earth’s polar regions each summer.

The Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere mission, or AIM, will receive $100 million in NASA funding for development and flight of the satellite. CU’s LASP will receive about $20 million for the design and construction of two instruments, satellite control and data analysis, according to Professor Gary Thomas of LASP. Thomas is professor emeritus in CU-Boulder’s department of astrophysical and planetary sciences.

“We have evidence that the brightness and frequency of these clouds has been increasing,” said David Rusch, lead scientist for one of the LASP instruments.



“The AIM mission should reveal the underlying causes for these changes.”

AIM also will help scientists determine whether incoming dust triggers or inhibits the formation of mesospheric ice clouds, or noctilucent clouds, Rusch said.

Noctilucent, or “night-shining,” clouds occur in the summer mesosphere, the coldest place in the atmosphere, said Thomas. They were first reported in northern high latitudes in 1885. But their increasing brightness and frequency over the past several decades has scientists wondering if a long-term increase in carbon dioxide and methane -- greenhouse gases of anthropogenic and natural origin -- are making the clouds more prevalent.

Noctilucent cloud formation is believed to be hastened by increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, Thomas said. While CO2 is thought to contribute to global warming on Earth, ironically it also cools the middle and upper atmospheres.

Thomas predicted in 1994 that noctilucent clouds would continue to brighten and be visible over the continental United States by the 21st century. The clouds, which normally appear each year in the far northern and southern latitudes, were spotted over Colorado for the first time on June 22, 1999 from Coal Creek Canyon south of Boulder. The previous record for the southernmost sighting of noctilucent clouds in the continental United States was in Montana.

“This was a big event,” Thomas said. “While they are a beautiful phenomenon, these clouds may be a message from Mother Nature that we are upsetting the equilibrium of the atmosphere.”

The AIM satellite will be launched in fall 2006 into a polar orbit about 370 miles above Earth, said Thomas. “We will receive and analyze data at our new LASP facility to be completed in 2005.”

In addition to controlling the AIM spacecraft from its east campus headquarters, LASP will design and build the Cloud Imaging and Particle Size instrument that will produce images of the polar mesospheric clouds and measure the sizes of particles within them, Thomas said. The second instrument being designed and built at LASP, the Cosmic Dust Experiment, will detect cosmic dust particles entering the atmosphere, said Rusch.

The third instrument, an infrared solar occultation radiometer called SOPHIE, will be built by Utah State University in conjunction with Orbital Science Corp.

The AIM mission is led by principal investigator James Russell III of Hampton University in Hampton, Va. The deputy principal investigator is Scott Bailey, a former LASP researcher who is now a faculty member at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

LASP’s Michael McGrath is the AIM project manager. Co-investigators on the 14-member science team include LASP researchers Thomas, Rusch, Mihaly Horanyi, Cora Randall and William McClintock. The project will involve several graduate and undergraduate students in instrument development, satellite control and data analysis, Rusch said.

AIM is part of NASA’s Small Explorer program, which was designed to provide frequent, low-cost access to space for physics and astronomy missions with small- to- mid-sized spacecraft. The AIM mission is expected to span a six-year period.

UCB | newswise
Further information:
http://www.colorado.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Turning the Climate Tide by 2020
29.06.2017 | Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung

nachricht Predicting eruptions using satellites and math
28.06.2017 | Frontiers

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

High conductive foils enabling large area lighting

29.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Designed proteins to treat muscular dystrophy

29.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Climate Fluctuations & Non-equilibrium Statistical Mechanics: An Interdisciplinary Dialog

29.06.2017 | Seminars Workshops

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>