Skies of Antartica captured by NASA's spacecraft
Skies of Antartica captured by NASA's spacecraftScreenshot from NASA's website

NASA's spacecraft for Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) mission has captured the spectacular glowing electric blue skies of Antarctica caused by ice clouds over the region. This indicates the beginning of noctilucent or night-shining that is witnessed in the Southern Hemisphere.

What are noctilucent clouds? These are "Earth's highest clouds, sandwiched between Earth and space 50 miles above the ground in a layer of the atmosphere called the mesosphere. Seeded by fine debris from disintegrating meteors, these clouds of ice crystals glow a bright, shocking blue when they reflect sunlight," according to NASA.

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AIM data said that noctilucent cloud season started on November 17, which is the earliest since the mission was launched in 2007. Scientists have said that early arrival of the noctilucent cloud season could be caused by changes in the Antarctic lower atmosphere.

NASA's AIM was launched to study noctilucent clouds with an aim to understand the mesosphere and the impact it could have on other parts of the atmosphere. Scientists observe the Northern and Southern hemispheres in summer when the "mesosphere is most humid, with water vapour wafting up from lower altitudes," and when it is the coldest place on earth with temperatures dropping up to minus 210 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to AIM data, changes in one region of the atmosphere can affect even distant regions, which scientists call "atmospheric teleconnections."

(Source: NASA)