A NASA sounding rocket to be launched from the Poker Flat Research Range, Alaska, between February 13 and March 3, 2017, will form white artificial clouds during its brief, 10-minute flight.
The rocket is one of five being launched January through March, each carrying instruments to explore the aurora and its interactions with Earth’s upper atmosphere and ionosphere. Scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, explain that electric fields drive the ionosphere, which, in turn, are predicted to set up enhanced neutral winds within an aurora arc. This experiment seeks to understand the height-dependent processes that create localized neutral jets within the aurora.
For this mission, two 56-foot long Black Brant IX rockets will be launched nearly simultaneously. One rocket is expected to fly to an apogee of about 107 miles while the other is targeted for 201 miles apogee. Only the lower altitude rocket will form the white luminescent clouds during its flight. Read more: go.nasa.gov/2kYaBgV
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.