Noctilucent Clouds of Beauty

I want to preserve this info from the Space Weather website in my weblog.  These noctilucent clouds are very interesting and someone at NASA wants to study them using the AIM spacecraft sent up into orbit yesterday.  Why do they really want to study these clouds and what is the true origin of these clouds?  I’ve always been interested in clouds and I always scan the sky when I am outdoors, or indoors through a window.  My gaze is naturally drawn upwards to the sky.

Thanks, Space Weather!

AIM TAKES OFF: NASA’s AIM spacecraft is in Earth orbit today following a flawless Wednesday afternoon launch aboard an Pegasus XL rocket. AIM is on a mission to study mysterious noctilucent clouds, such as these photographed by Jan Koeman from his home in the Netherlands in June 2005:


Noctilucent clouds (“NLCs” for short) were first noticed in the 19th century following the eruption of the Krakatoa volcano. After sunset, electric-blue tendrils would spread across the western sky, mesmerizing onlookers. At first scientists thought the clouds were a side-effect of the eruption, but long after Krakatoa’s dust has settled, the clouds are still here. Indeed, they are becoming more widespread. Originally confined to high latitudes such as Canada and Scandinavia, NLCs have been seen in recent years as far south as Viriginia and Colorado.

What causes NLCs? Theories range from space dust to global warming. For the next two years, AIM will scrutinize these clouds from Earth orbit to learn what they may be telling us about our planet.

Gallery of photos:

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