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Looking down from above, AIM captured this composite image of the noctilucent cloud cover above the Southern Pole on December 31, 2009. The 2009 cloud season began a month earlier than the 2010 season did
(PhysOrg.com) -- High up in the sky near the poles some 50 miles above the ground, silvery blue clouds sometimes appear, shining brightly in the night. First noticed in 1885, these clouds are known as noctilucent, or "night shining," clouds. Their discovery spawned over a century of research into what conditions causes them to form and vary – questions that still tantalize scientists to this day. Since 2007, a NASA mission called Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) has shown that the cloud formation is changing year to year, a process they believe is intimately tied to the weather and climate of the whole globe.
Noctilucent clouds streaming across the sky in Utrecht, The Netherlands on June 16, 2009.