00:58 GMT +314 December 2018
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    Noctilucent clouds over Uppsala, Sweden

    NASA Balloon Spots Mysterious 'Brilliant Blue' Night-Time Clouds

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    PMCs, or polar mesospheric clouds, which are known to glow beautifully in the darkness of night, are affected by atmospheric gravity waves, essentially sent by the convection and uplifting of air masses. These noctilucent masses are known to be particularly visible over the poles.

    NASA has sent a long-duration balloon mission to observe a thin group of extraordinary electric blue clouds right on the cusp of our atmosphere over the course of five days, which is hoped to allow scientists better understand turbulence in the atmosphere and in oceans, lakes and other planetary atmospheres, NASA said in a statement. It added that scientists have already begun to analyze the photos captured by the mission.

    "From what we've seen so far, we expect to have a really spectacular dataset from this mission," said Dave Fritts, principal investigator of the PMC Turbo mission at Global Atmospheric Technologies and Sciences in Boulder, Colorado. He added the top-notch cameras used in the mission will likely capture some “really interesting events that we hope will [provide new insights into these complex dynamics.”

    NASA's PMC Turbo mission launched a gigantic balloon on 8 July from Esrange, Sweden, before it travelled across the Arctic to Western Nunavut in Canada, to study PMCs at a height of 50 miles above the surface to catch sight of noctilucent clouds which, affected by so-called atmospheric gravity waves, coalesce as ice crystals on miniscule meteor remnants in the high atmospheric layers. 

    The waves, meanwhile, are essential in pushing energy from the lower layers upwards to the mesosphere – a process, which the scientists have now managed to witness and film:

    "This is the first time we've been able to visualize the flow of energy from larger gravity waves to smaller flow instabilities and turbulence in the upper atmosphere," Fritts said.

    During the voyage, NASA captured six million high-resolution images of the “brilliant blue rippling clouds that are visible just after the Sun sets in polar regions during the summer.”

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