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 New Measurement Device: Carbon Dioxide As Geothermometer
21.05.2019 | Universität Heidelberg

nachricht Cause for variability in Arctic sea ice clarified
14.05.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für Meteorologie

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

Im Focus: A step towards probabilistic computing

Working group led by physicist Professor Ulrich Nowak at the University of Konstanz, in collaboration with a team of physicists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, demonstrates how skyrmions can be used for the computer concepts of the future

When it comes to performing a calculation destined to arrive at an exact result, humans are hopelessly inferior to the computer. In other areas, humans are...

Im Focus: Recording embryonic development

Scientists develop a molecular recording tool that enables in vivo lineage tracing of embryonic cells

The beginning of new life starts with a fascinating process: A single cell gives rise to progenitor cells that eventually differentiate into the three germ...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Summit charts a course to uncover the origins of genetic diseases

22.05.2019 | Life Sciences

New study finds distinct microbes living next to corals

22.05.2019 | Life Sciences

Stellar waltz with dramatic ending

22.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>