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  Image: Geographic Location Photo #: ISS034-E-24622 Date: Jan. 2013
Geographic Region: PACIFIC OCEAN

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  Polar Mesospheric Clouds, South Pacific Ocean

Polar mesospheric clouds--also known as noctilucent, or "night shining" clouds--are formed 76 to 85 kilometers above the Earth's surface near the mesosphere-thermosphere boundary of the atmosphere, a region known as the mesopause. At these altitudes, water vapor can freeze into clouds of ice crystals. When the Sun is below the horizon such that the ground is in darkness, these high clouds may still be illuminated--lending them their ethereal, "night shining" qualities.

Noctilucent clouds have been observed from all human vantage points in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres - from the surface, in aircraft, and in orbit from the International Space Station (ISS)--and tend to be most visible during the late spring and early summer seasons. Polar mesospheric clouds also are of interest to scientists studying the atmosphere. While some scientists seek to understand their mechanisms of formation, others have identified them as potential indicators of atmospheric changes resulting from increases in greenhouse gas concentrations.

This astronaut photograph was taken when the ISS was over the Pacific Ocean south of French Polynesia. While most polar mesospheric cloud images are taken from the ISS with relatively short focal length lens to maximize the field of view, this image was taken with a long lens (400 mm) allowing for additional detail of the cloud forms to be seen. Below the brightly-lit noctilucent clouds in the center of the image, the pale orange band indicates the stratosphere.
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Images: All Available Images Low-Resolution 74k
Mission: ISS034  
Roll - Frame: E - 24622
Geographical Name: PACIFIC OCEAN  
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: 75
Camera: N5
Camera Tilt: HO   LO=Low Oblique, HO=High Oblique, NV=Near Vertical
Camera Focal Length: 400  
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: 20130105   YYYYMMDD
Time: 102038   GMT HHMMSS
Nadir Lat: 51.4S  
Latitude of suborbital point of spacecraft
Nadir Lon: 163.3W  
Longitude of suborbital point of spacecraft
Sun Azimuth: 189   Clockwise angle in degrees from north to the sun measured at the nadir point
Space Craft Altitude: 229   nautical miles
Sun Elevation: -16   Angle in degrees between the horizon and the sun, measured at the nadir point
Land Views:  
Water Views: OCEAN  
Atmosphere Views: NOCTILUCENT CLOUDS  
Man Made Views:  
City Views:  
Photo is not associated with any sequences

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