Shop Windows to the Universe

Learn about planets outside our solar system through Exoplanets and Alien Solar Systems by Tahir Yaqoob, Ph.D., a book in our online store book collection.
This is an artist's rendition of the AIM spacecraft taking measurements of the mesosphere while flying through space.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA (Hampton University)

AIM Mission Overview

The Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) mission is focused on the study of Polar Mesospheric Clouds (PMC’s), also known as noctilucent clouds (NLC’s). The mission will look at these clouds that form about 50 miles above the Earth’s surface, specifically why they form and why their formation varies.

Noctilucent clouds are very special clouds. They are only seen high in the sky just after the Sun dips below the horizon. In the past, they were mainly seen in the summer months, near the poles of the Earth. They sometimes glow an electric, blue-white color which make them seem very mysterious. These beautiful clouds that hover at the very edge of space seem to be getting brighter and closer to the equator in recent years. PMC’s are definitely connected to the meteorology of the mesosphere. What the AIM mission will help scientists determine is why the formation of PMC’s is changing and if PMC formation is an indicator of global climate change.

The AIM satellite has three instruments aboard: CIPS, SOFIE and CDE. CIPS is an instrument that will take images of the clouds to determine when and where they form, and to document what they look like. SOFIE will measure the temperature and composition of the mesosphere, which will tell scientists more about the chemistry and movement of air in the mesosphere that might lead to cloud formation or cloud dissipation. Finally, CDE will measure how much dust enters the mesosphere from meteors. It is possible that this dust is what water vapor is freezing onto to form PMC’s and thus meteor dust is an important component of cloud formation to understand.

The AIM spacecraft will be launched in September 2006 aboard a Pegasus rocket in a mission originating from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The expected mission life of AIM is 26 months.

Hampton University (HU) is NASA’s main contractor for the AIM mission, but HU will be working along with many other co-investigators at various universities and institutions.

Last modified June 18, 2004 by Jennifer Bergman.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Our online store includes fun classroom activities for you and your students. Issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist are also full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science!

Windows to the Universe Community



You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Noctilucent Clouds

Noctilucent clouds (NLC’s) or polar mesospheric clouds (PMC’s) are found very high in the Earth's atmosphere (about 85,300 meters above the Earth's surface!). They are called Polar Mesospheric Clouds when...more

History of Observation of Noctilucent Clouds

Observations of noctilucent or "night-shining" clouds were first reported in the summer of 1885. The reports were from northern Europe and Russia. In the late 1880’s, it was proposed that the clouds had...more

Space Missions to study Earth's Atmosphere & Climate

Television weather forecasts in the space age routinely feature satellite views of cloud cover. Cameras and other instruments on spacecraft provide many types of valuable data about Earth's atmosphere...more

Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was one of the most important exploration tools of the past two decades, and will continue to serve as a great resource well into the new millennium. The HST is credited...more

Apollo 11

Driven by a recent surge in space research, the Apollo program hoped to add to the accomplishments of the Lunar Orbiter and Surveyor missions of the late 1960's. Apollo 11 was the first mission to succeed...more

Apollo 12

Apollo 12 survived a lightning strike during its launch on Nov. 14, 1969, and arrived at the Moon three days later. Astronauts Charles Conrad and Alan Bean descended to the surface, while Richard Gordon...more

Apollo 15

Apollo 15 marked the start of a new series of missions from the Apollo space program, each capable of exploring more lunar terrain than ever before. Launched on July 26, 1971, Apollo 15 reached the Moon...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF