Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Dubna наукоград: noctilucent!

A rather cryptic title for a post with some clouds over a lake or something, right? 

     Dubna naukograd, the science city! It is an international center for nuclear physics and so much has been done here (and is being done here) that we even named an element after it: Dubnium (A=105)!
     While spending the summer there I had the chance to do two things: live in a perpetual state of light and twilight (the sun was barely setting before going up again, Dubna is quite up north) and witness magnificent displays of noctilucent clouds. 


       What clouds?!? While taking an airplane sometimes people might say that "you're above all the clouds!"; this is quite far away from the truth, as there are clouds "slightly higher" than where the usual stratospheric planes fly, at 10-12 km altitude. These special clouds are so high that are way beyond stratosphere and at the edge of space: ~85 km high, in the mesosphere, just below the mesopause. It's very cold there (-125 Celsius degrees) and guess what: we don't really know what they are and how they form. To solve this, we launched a satellite, the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) which started it's mission quite recently.

      Wispy, electric blue, at the edge of space and seen at the end of twilight close to the summer solstice in regions as far away from the poles as 45 degrees latitude, they are a joy to watch and observers gather their sightings and more information here. As the climate gets warmer, the mesosphere gets colder and they are becoming a more common sight closer and closer to the tropical regions of our planet.

   ...and yes, these pictures are taken at midnight! :)

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful! The images look surreal, and yet they are real. Thanks for sharing. I'm learning so much from your blog.