Image: Station crew sees 'night-shining' clouds

Jun 27, 2012
Credit: NASA

(Phys.org) -- In both the Earth's Northern and Southern Hemispheres polar mesospheric clouds are at the peak of their visibility, during their respective late spring and early summer seasons. Visible from aircraft in flight, the International Space Station and from the ground at twilight, the clouds typically appear as delicate, shining threads against the darkness of space--hence their other names of noctilucent or "night-shining" clouds.

On June 13, 2012, when this image was taken from the space station as it passed over the , polar mesospheric clouds were also visible to aircraft flying over Canada. In addition to the still image above, the station crew took a time-lapse image sequence of polar mesospheric clouds several days earlier on June 5, while passing over western Asia. It is first such sequence of images of the phenomena taken from orbit.

Polar mesospheric clouds form between 47 to 53 miles (76 to 85 kilometers) above Earth’s surface when there is sufficient water vapor at these high altitudes to freeze into ice crystals. The clouds are illuminated by the sun when it is just below the visible horizon, lending them their night-shining properties. In addition to the trending across the center of the image, lower layers of the atmosphere are also illuminated. The lowest layer of the atmosphere visible in this image--the stratosphere--is indicated by dim orange and red tones near the horizon.

Explore further: NASA's reliance on outsourcing launches causes a dilemma for the space agency

Related Stories

Mysterious noctilucent clouds as seen from space

Feb 10, 2011

Mysterious "night shining" or noctilucent clouds are beautiful to behold, and are usually seen during the summertime, appearing at sunset. They are thin, wavy ice clouds that form at very high altitudes and ...

Night Time Artificial Cloud Study Conducted

Sep 21, 2009

A rocket experiment that may shed light on the highest clouds in the Earth's atmosphere was conducted September 19 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

AIM to Clear Up Mystery of Elusive Clouds at Edge Of Space

Apr 11, 2007

NASA is preparing to launch the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) spacecraft, the first mission dedicated to exploration of mysterious ice clouds that dot the edge of space in Earth's polar regions. These clouds have ...

Image: Sunset over South America

May 09, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Expedition 27 crew photographed this sunset over western South America from aboard the International Space Station.

Recommended for you

Crash test assesses plane emergency locator transmitters

Jul 03, 2015

The Cessna 172 airplane dangled 82 feet in the air – looking almost like it was coming in for a landing, except for the cables attaching it to a huge gantry at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, ...

NASA image: Curiosity's stars and stripes

Jul 03, 2015

This view of the American flag medallion on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity was taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 44th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Sept. 19, 2012). ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.