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      Known as night-shining or noctilucent clouds, they are seen at twilight in the summer months, typically at high latitudes near the North and South Poles. Before the mission, scientists knew these types of clouds varied with latitude, season, and solar activity, but didn’t know why. This mission was launched to understand the variations and study why the clouds form and their links to climate change by measuring the thermal, chemical, and other properties of the environment in which the clouds form.
      Noctilucent clouds appeared in the sky above Edmonton, Alberta, in Canada on July 2, 2011. NASA/Dave Hughes “NASA’s AIM has been an incredibly successful mission,” said Scott Bailey, AIM principal investigator and professor at Virginia Tech. “It has answered core questions that have helped us understand how noctilucent clouds and atmospheric gravity waves vary over time and location.”
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      Though the spacecraft has seen its last night-shining clouds, scientists will continue to study AIM’s data for years to come. As for the spacecraft itself, it will slowly lose orbital height and burn up upon atmosphere re-entry in 2026.
      “There are still gigabytes upon gigabytes of AIM data to study,” said Cora Randall, AIM deputy principal investigator and senior research scientist at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder, Colorado. “And as our models and computational capabilities continue to improve, people will make many more discoveries using the AIM datasets.”
      For more information about the mission, visit: https://go.nasa.gov/3TgIDwD
      By Mara Johnson-Groh
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
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      Last Updated Mar 01, 2024 Related Terms
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