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Atmospheric Science

Noctilucent Clouds

Noctilucent clouds appear at twilight in the high latitudes. This photograph was taken over Juneau, Alaska. (Courtesy Richard Keen and Gary Thomas / LASP)

The Earth’s atmosphere, a layered sphere of gas extending upward more than 600 km from the surface, forms the environment for terrestrial life. It consists of the troposphere, where weather occurs; the stratosphere, where a blanket of protective ozone lies; the mesosphere, the home of beautiful noctilucent clouds (also known as polar mesospheric clouds or PMCs); and the thermosphere, host to the colorful aurora (northern/southern lights).

Scientists in the LASP atmospheric division study the composition, structure, chemical and physical processes of the Earth’s atmosphere. The emphasis is on space-based instrumentation, satellite data analysis, field measurements from aircraft, and modeling of aerosols, clouds, radiation, chemistry and dynamics. It has with great success combined scientific research and graduate and undergraduate education, first in sounding rocket work and then in small satellite programs.

Click on the image to view a PDF (377 KB) of LASP Atmospheric Science.