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Quick Facts
Mission Name AIM: Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere

patch
AIM Mission Patch

poster
Download LASP AIM Poster (644 kb)
LASP Instruments
  • CIPS: Cloud Imaging and Particle Size
    Principal Investigator: Dave Rusch
  • CDE: Cosmic Dust Experiment
    Principal Investigator: Mihaly Horanyi
Destination Upper atmospheric regions of the Earth
Launch Date April 25, 2007
Launch Location Vandenberg Air Force Base
Launch Vehicle Pegasus XL
Mission Duration 2 Cloud Seasons (approximately 1 1/2 years)
Mission Description/
LASP involvement
LASP built two of the three instruments for AIM (CIPS and CDE), in addition to the Instrument Pallet Assembly. LASP's Mission Ops division manages the mission and control of the satellite.

The goal of AIM is to understand why polar mesospheric clouds (PMC's) which usually form only at high latitudes near the north and south poles form and why they vary. (Read more on LASP Involvement below).

LASP Divisions Involved Engineering * Science * Operations
LASP Mission Web Page http://lasp.colorado.edu/aim
Official Mission Web Page http://aim.hamptonu.edu/

The Science and Goal

The Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) experiment studies Polar Mesospheric Clouds (PMC's), the ice crystal clouds that form in the Earth’s mesosphere. AIM helps uncover why these clouds form and why they vary, quantifying the connection between PMC's and the meteorology of the polar mesosphere. The AIM mission seeks to create a foundation for the study of long-term change in the mesosphere and its relationship to global change.

imageThe overall goal of the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) experiment is to resolve why PMC's form and why they vary. By measuring PMC's and the thermal, chemical and dynamical environment in which they form, researchers will quantify the connection between these clouds and the meteorology of the polar mesosphere. In the end, this will provide the basis for study of a long-term variability in the mesospheric climate and its relationship to global change. The results of AIM will be a rigorous validation of predictive models that can reliably use past PMC changes and present trends as indicators of global change. This goal will be achieved by measuring PMC abundances, spatial distribution, particle size distributions, gravity wave activity, dust influx to the atmosphere and precise, vertical profile measurements of temperature H2O, OH, CH4, O3, CO2, NO, and aerosols. These data can only be obtained by a complement of instruments on an orbiting spacecraft.


Over the last 30 years ground based observations from NW Europe of the number of noctilucent clouds (NLC's) show dramatic increases. These clouds, known more recently to satellite observers as PMC's, are believed to respond dramatically to even small changes in their environment. Since cooling of the upper atmosphere (PMC's occur near 85 km) is expected to accompany the possible warming of the lower atmosphere due to an increased greenhouse effect, an increase in mesospheric cloudiness could be one consequence of mesospheric climate change.


LASP Involvement (more)

LASP built two of the three instruments for AIM:

  • CIPS: Cloud Imaging and Particle Size Experiment - a nadir imager
    The CIPS instrument is a panoramic camera that images the atmosphere to determine the morphology of the PMC's and the size distribution of PMC particles.
  • CDE: Cosmic Dust Experiment - an in-situ dust detector
    The Cosmic Dust Experiment (CDE) measures the influx of cosmic dust to the Earth’s upper atmosphere to determine what role that dust plays in the formation of PMCs.

LASP also built the instrument pallet assembly, and LASP's Mission Ops division manages the mission and control of the satellite after launch.

University of Colorado at Boulder

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