The PoSSUM Aeronomy Program provides a practical education for the professional interested in upper-atmospheric research from research aircraft, high-altitude balloons, and suborbital spacecraft. Emphasis is on the study of noctilucent clouds from research aircraft, the design of space instrumentation and on mission specific training for suborbital noctilucent cloud tomography missions. This Program has been co-developed by Project PoSSUM, Integrated Spaceflight Services, Columbia University, GATS, Inc., and Aerospatial Systems.

Areas of Study

Airborne Remote Sensing of Noctilucent Clouds

Project PoSSUM partners with Aerospatial Systems to conduct airborne imagery and remote sensing of noctilucent cloud structures from High Level, Alberta using a Turbo Mooney research aircraft. Individual sorties are designed to compensate for solar motion and synchronize with the AIM satellite, which observes noctilucent cloud structures from space, and with terrestrial observation sites to facilitate tomographic reconstruction. These images are used to test the low-latitude thresholds of space-based imagery and qualify instrumentation for PoSSUM high-altitude balloon and suborbital spacecraft missions.

High-Altitude Balloon Imaging of Noctilucent Clouds

Project PoSSUM works in partnership with GATS, Columbia University, and Integrated Spaceflight Services to develop and test camera systems designed to fly on a high-altitude, NASA-funded balloon in support of the imagery experiment around the Antarctic polar vortex for two weeks in December 2017. PoSSUM graduates are engaged in the instrument development, testing, and educational outreach efforts in this novel experiment that will study atmospheric dynamics that can only be viewed in exquisite detail through very high resolution imagery techniques.

Crewed Suborbital Tomography of Noctilucent Clouds

The PoSSUMCam system will be used to obtain high-resolution imagery of noctilucent cloud micro-features as suborbital spacecraft pass through the cloud layer, much like an MRI creates 3D representations of the human body. These images will be used to build extremely high-resolution models of the small-scale structures of noctilucent cloud layers through modeling algorithms developed for the program. These structures have been difficult to resolve from previous means of observation from space-based or ground-based imagers but are believed to contain most of the information pertaining to energy and momentum deposition in the upper atmosphere.

The Graduate Certificate in Aeronomy

The IIAS Professional Credential in Aeronomy is a 16-credit certification designed for the student or professional interested in a career in human space flight involving upper-atmospheric research. The credential assumes an understanding of mathematics up to differential equations and familiarization with coding and modeling platforms. Prospective applicants must have successfully competed the requirements for AST 101 (Fundamentals of Astronautics). As needed, preparatory courses in MATLAB and Python are available. Upon completion of the prescribed courses, the candidate should petition for graduation through the link below.

Requirements for the IIAS Aeronomy Certificate

AST 101Fundamentals of Astronautics2
EDU 101Citizen-Science Research Methods2
AER 101Suborbital Space Environment3
AER 102Remote Sensing and Atmospheric Modeling3
AER 103Airborne Imagery of Noctilucent Clouds3
AST 999Thesis3

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