Airborne Noctilucent Cloud Tomography

The Airborne Noctilucent Cloud Mission

PoSSUM Airborne Science Patch_small

Fundamentally, high-resolution time-lapse imagery may be used to test theories of noctilucent cloud formation, sublimation, advection and gravity wave perturbations. Together with Columbia University and the University of Alberta. PoSSUM graduates observe and analyze the time evolution of the noctilucent cloud field over many hours from high-resolution cameras designed for high-altitude balloon flight that will be coordinated with ground and satellite observations. To do this, two ground stations are established: One will be near High Level, the other will be located 200km to the east near Garden Creek. The research aircraft will fly a carefully-crafted flight plan at altitudes of up to 23,000’ employing scientific camera systems qualified for high-altitude balloon and suborbital noctilucent cloud imagery.

Science Objectives

PoSSUM airborne noctilucent cloud campaigns have several objectives: 1) validate camera systems on noctilucent clouds structures, 2) characterize jitter and focal capability in varying flight environments, 3) obtain imagery data to assist preliminary design of image algorithms, 4) perform tomographic imagery synchronous with ground station(s), and 5) facilitate EPO efforts.

Following the flight campaign, an analysis will be performed to:  1) compile the images, 2) compare the viewing angles, geometries, local time, scattering angles, and the positions of the aircraft and the clouds being imaged, and 3) analyze the micro-features of the PMCs in images taken simultaneously with ground observations and the AIM satellite.

The 2017 PoSSUM Noctilucent Cloud Research Campaign

Citizen-Science Research: Airborne Imagery of the Mesosphere

This is an OPERATIONAL FIELD CAMPAIGN based in High Level, Alberta each July. All students will learn to operate at high-altitudes (up to 23K’) in unpressurized aircraft while performing one of two in-flight roles: flight navigator or mission specialist. Students will also participate in coordinated ground observation campaigns to facilitate tomographic reconstruction of airborne images.

Teaching Objectives:  1) Provide a foundation in operational flight research. 2) Learn how to integrate and test imagery systems to aircraft, 3) Learn how to organize operational field campaigns and sorties using PoSSUM research aircraft to study noctilucent clouds, 4) Learn effective Crew Resource Management techniques in operational aircraft campaigns, 5) Learn about high-altitude physiology and the effective use of supplemental oxygen, 6) Learn to calculate waypoints for each sortie type. Webinars will be provided and class projects will be assigned.

PoSSUM Student Roles and Responsibilities:

Flight Navigator: Calculate all waypoints, calculate intercept times (using winds aloft) at each waypoint, engine settings to intercept waypoint on time given winds aloft data. Program waypoints in GPS system on aircraft prior to flight and aviation digital map.

Flight Mission Specialist: Operate instrument in-flight. Set camera settings using GUI interface for camera system, position camera azimuth at each waypoint, monitor total oxygen level for crew. Download and backup all camera data after flight.

Ground Support 1 and 2: Set up and operate ground camera for tomography imagery.

Red Sprite Team with Mooney
The 2017 PoSSUM 'Blue Jet' team stands under an intense noctilucent cloud display.