NASA has released the first ever images of mysterious polar night clouds that form 50 miles above Earth’s surface, and says that they might be linked to global warming.
The startling images were captured by NASA’s “AIM” satellite (Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere), and show night clouds above 70 degrees north latitude on May 25. Since then, eyewitnesses on the ground have reported seeing the formations on June 6 over Northern Europe (see image after the jump).
When viewed from space, the mysterious clouds are known scientifically as Polar Mesospheric Clouds, or PMCs, when seen from the ground they are called Noctilucent or “night-shining” Clouds.
According to NASA, hardly anything is known about how these clouds form over the poles, why they are being seen more often and at lower latitudes than previously, or why they have been growing brighter. To find out more, AIM will observe two complete cloud seasons over both poles, collecting data on an entire life cycle of the shiny clouds for the first time.
Speaking about the project AIM principal investigator James Russell III of Hampton University said, “It is clear that these clouds are changing, a sign that a part of our atmosphere is changing and we do not understand how, why or what it means. These observations suggest a connection with global change in the lower atmosphere and could represent an early warning that our Earth environment is being changed.”
Image Credits – NASA & Veres Viktor