NASA Shares Stunning Photo of What 'Night Shining' Clouds Look Like from Mesosphere

·2-min read

The social media handles of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) seldom fail to impress their followers and one of its recent Instagram posts is certainly going to make you happy. Taking us up above the visible skyline from Earth, a photograph shared by NASA’s Instagram handle shows us how night-shining clouds or Noctilucent are formed. The image posted on Sunday was originally taken from the International Space Station (ISS) back in May 29, 2016. Capturing the receding blue light from the Earth as it finally merges with the black space, the sky Noctilucent or night-shining clouds can be seen forming in Earth’s mesosphere.

In its caption, NASA explains that these unique clouds form between 47 and53 miles or 76 and85 km above our planet’s surface. That area is also known as the mesopause, which is a boundary of the mesosphere and thermosphere.⁣ NASA wrote that this area of Earth’s upper atmosphere region is one of the least understood. However, with their constant experiments and studies, the American agency says that it can now be studied by their airborne SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) observatory which is a joint project with the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The observatory has proven helpful in an extensive study of the cosmos.

The caption further mentions that German researcher Heinz Hübers led a team to improve one of SOFIA’s infrared instruments with new laser technology. In his recently published paper, the scientist measured oxygen directly from the mesosphere and lower thermosphere, which is the region near which noctilucent clouds shine.⁣

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Hübers, director of DLR’s Institute of Optical Sensor Systems and professor at Humboldt University in Berlin, had said in a statement that SOFIA looks right through the Earth’s upper atmosphere as it observes the universe beyond, and he thought it would be interesting to collect data from the GREAT instrument that could benefit studies of earth’s own atmosphere someday.

The photograph was taken by Tim Peake⁣ a member of the European Space Agency (ESA) who was stationed at ISS in 2016.

Commenting on the post, ESA wrote, “We are playing some nice music while enjoying this amazing view! Can you guess the song?”

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