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AIM spacecraft saw 'night-glowing' clouds forming 50 miles above Earth
Phenomenon tied with earliest start date yet recorded over Antarctica
These clouds are composed of ice crystals and seeded by meteor debris
When they reflect sunlight, they have a 'shocking' blue colouring
By Cheyenne Macdonald For Dailymail.com
Published: 18:56 EST, 2 December 2016 | Updated: 19:04 EST, 2 December 2016
‘Night-shining’ clouds forming 50 miles above Earth’s surface have been spotted glowing over Antarctica far earlier than usual.
The polar phenomenon, captured by NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere spacecraft, tied with the earliest start date yet recorded by the instrument in the Southern Hemisphere – Nov 17.
The clouds are composed of ice crystals and seeded by debris from disintegrating meteors, giving them a ‘shocking’ blue hue when they reflect sunlight.
The polar phenomenon, captured by NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere spacecraft, tied with the earliest start date yet recorded by the instrument in the Southern Hemisphere – Nov 17
According to NASA, Nov 17 marked the start of noctilucent cloud season in the Southern Hemisphere.
These are Earth’s highest clouds, and sit between our planet and space in the mesosphere.
According to NASA, they are observed seasonally, during summer in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, when the mesosphere is at its most humid, sending water vapour up from lower altitudes.
At this time, it is also the coldest place on Earth, hitting temperatures as low as -210 degrees Fahrenheit as a result of air flow patterns.
Studying these clouds provides insight on the behaviour of this layer of the atmosphere, and its role relative to other layers, weather, and climate.
The start of the season has been recorded anywhere from Nov 17 to Dec 16, and this year’s early appearance lines up with the early seasonal changes observed at lower altitudes.
Noctilucent clouds, also called polar mesospheric clouds, form between 47-53 miles above Earth’s surface (76-85 km), according to the space agency.
Here, water vapour freezes into clouds of ice crystals, which are illuminated when the sun is below the horizon.
Space shuttle observation of an unusual transient atmospheric emission
Yoav Yair,1 Colin Price,2 Baruch Ziv,1 Peter L. Israelevich,2 Davis D. Sentman,3
Fernanda T. Sa˜o-Sabbas,4 Adam D. Devir,1 Mitsuteru Sato,5 Craig J. Rodger,6
Meir Moalem,2 Eran Greenberg,2 and Ofer Yaron2
Received 17 September 2004; revised 11 November 2004; accepted 10 December 2004; published 18 January 2005.
 We report an observation of an unusual transient luminous event (TLE) detected in the near IR, south of Madagascar above the Indian Ocean. The event was imaged from the space shuttle Columbia during the MEIDEX sprite campaign [Yair et al., 2004]. It was delayed 0.23 seconds from a preceding visual lightning flash which was horizontally displaced >1000 km from the event. The calculated brightness in the 860 (±50) nm filter was 310 ± 30 kR, and the morphology of the emitting volume did not resemble any known class of TLE (i.e., sprites, ELVES or halos). This TIGER event (Transient Ionospheric Glow Emission in Red) may constitute a new class of TLE, not necessarily induced by a near-by thunderstorm.
We discuss possible generation mechanisms, including the conjugate sprite hypothesis caused by lightning at the magnetic mirror point, lightning-induced electron precipitation and an extraterrestrial source, meteoric or cometary. Citation: Yair, Y., et al. (2005), Space shuttle observation of an unusual transient atmospheric emission,
Geophys. Res. Lett., 32, L02801, doi:10.1029/2004GL021551.