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  Image: Geographic Location Photo #: ISS031-E-116058 Date: Jun. 2012
Geographic Region: CHINA

Ordering information for space photography
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  Polar Mesospheric Clouds, Northern Hemisphere

In both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, during their respective late spring and early summer seasons, polar mesospheric clouds are at the peak of their visibility. Visible from the ground during twilight, aircraft in flight, and the International Space Station (ISS), they typically appear as delicate shining threads against the darkness of space--hence their other name of noctilucent or "night-shining" clouds. On the same day this image was taken from the ISS while it was passing over the night-darkened Tibetan Plateau, polar mesospheric clouds were also visible to aircraft flying above Canada. In addition to this still image, the ISS crew took a time-lapse image sequence of polar mesospheric clouds several days earlier (June 5, 2012) while passing over western Asia - the first such sequence of images of the phenomena taken from orbit.

Polar mesospheric clouds form between 76-85 kilometers above the Earth's surface, when there is sufficient water vapor at these high altitudes to freeze into ice crystals. The clouds are illuminated by the setting Sun while the ground surface below is in darkness, lending them their night-shining properties. In addition to the illuminated tracery of polar mesospheric clouds trending across the center of the image, lower layers of the atmosphere are also illuminated; the lowest layer of the atmosphere, the stratosphere, is indicated by dim orange and red tones.

While the exact cause of formation of polar mesospheric clouds is still debated--dust from meteors, global warming, and rocket exhaust have all been suggested as contributing factors--recent research suggests that changes in atmospheric gas composition or temperature has caused the clouds to become brighter over time.
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Images: All Available Images Low-Resolution 82k
Mission: ISS031  
Roll - Frame: E - 116058
Geographical Name: CHINA  
Center Lat x Lon: N x E
Film Exposure:   N=Normal exposure, U=Under exposed, O=Over exposed, F=out of Focus
Percentage of Cloud Cover-CLDP: 10
Camera: N2
Camera Tilt: HO   LO=Low Oblique, HO=High Oblique, NV=Near Vertical
Camera Focal Length: 180  
Nadir to Photo Center Direction:   The direction from the nadir to the center point, N=North, S=South, E=East, W=West
Stereo?:   Y=Yes there is an adjacent picture of the same area, N=No there isn't
Orbit Number:  
Date: 20120613   YYYYMMDD
Time: 192657   GMT HHMMSS
Nadir Lat: 36.2N  
Latitude of suborbital point of spacecraft
Nadir Lon: 89.9E  
Longitude of suborbital point of spacecraft
Sun Azimuth: 22   Clockwise angle in degrees from north to the sun measured at the nadir point
Space Craft Altitude: 211   nautical miles
Sun Elevation: -27   Angle in degrees between the horizon and the sun, measured at the nadir point
Land Views: PLATEAU  
Water Views: ICE  
Atmosphere Views: DUST  
Man Made Views:  
City Views:  
Photo is not associated with any sequences

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